Following a week of protest regarding endowment transparency, another student group held a rally Wednesday urging Duke to make environmentally conscious investment choices.
Student group Divest Duke held a rally in front of the Allen Building to call on the University to remove its investments in the top-200 publicly-traded companies that hold a majority of the world's coal, oil and natural gas resources. About 15 students gathered outside of the Allen Building with banners and signs with their future such as “a future doctor for divestment” or “a future astronaut for divestment” to show a multidisciplinary effort to end investment in fossil fuel companies. Divest Duke members said they will present at the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility in November.
“Duke, every day you prepare us to succeed in the future...you help us shoot for the stars and dream big and I love you for that,” senior Laura Mistretta said at the rally. “However, if you are sincere about preparing us for the future, then don’t threaten it at the same time with your investments.”
Mistretta added that Divest Duke's main priority is to end investment in these top-200 companies, though they would also like to see Duke stop investing in any other fossil fuel companies.
Divest Duke was started in Fall 2012 by a group of graduate students as a movement attempting to stop Duke from investing its assets for the betterment of the environment.
Although the group was created by graduate students, Anthony Oliveri—a graduate student in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health program—was the only graduate student to attend the rally.
“For a number of graduate students ,they think that this doesn’t involve them, they think it’s a purely undergraduate thing," he said. “The number of graduate students, professional students that pay tuition, are involved in large financial investments on the part of research, I think we’re just as responsible for pushing the administration.”
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the ACIR is the best forum to address these concerns.
“This is an important and complex issue that requires careful study," Schoenfeld said in a statement. The best forum for that is the University's Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility, which has been charged with reviewing issues related to Duke's investments and making recommendations to the president.”
Divest Duke has a form proposal for the ACIR, which will ask Duke to divest from the top-200 fossil fuel companies over the next five years and to freeze new investments in those companies, said Emily Palmer, a field organizer at Green Corps.
The organization sent Palmer to Duke to assist with this campaign.
Duke is not the first university where students have raised concerns in regards to divestments efforts. There are currently 317 active university and college divestment movements, according to Fossil Free Campaign—a global organization seeking divestment of educational and religious institutions, city and state governments and other institutions.
Divest Duke's rally follows a week of protests by student group DukeOpen, a coalition that aims to increase transparency regarding the companies in which Duke invests its assets.
Senior Jacob Tobia, a leader of DukeOpen, said that although Divest Duke and DukeOpen's aims align, the groups are not working together.
“Divest Duke is certainly making progress in raising student awareness of the campaign,” he said. “DukeOpen has not formally collaborated with Divest Duke, but certainly the theme of transparency and investment responsibility is something that we both share.”