Alumni pledge to hold donations hostage to divestment

Boston University students are encouraging alumni to withhold any further donations to their alma mater until administrators agree to sell all the school’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry.

A student group calling itself “Divest BU” launched a petition Thursday pleading with alumni to sign their names to a pledge to withhold donations, declaring in a Facebook post that “since student voices are not enough to sway this administration, we have no choice but to call upon another important body of BU—alumni.”

[RELATED: NYU rejects fossil-fuel divestment as meaningless political statement]

“Divest BU asks alumni to withhold donation to Boston University until it divests from companies continuing to explore fossil fuel reserves,” the post continues, predicting that “hits to the university’s rankings, reputation, and financial reserves” will “force the administration to pay attention to student voices.”

According to Divest BU, the administration had repeatedly “refused to listen” after members of the divestment group lobbied the school’s president, met with the Dean of Students, and asked Chairman Kenneth Feld to “reconsider” his opposition to fossil fuel divestment.

“As of the last Board of Trustees meeting, BU remains invested in pernicious oil and gas companies that actively fight against climate justice and an equitable future,” the group’s plea declares, stating that its goal is to “reach 2000 signatures by August 3,” just in time for the Board’s next meeting.

[RELATED: Students ask UMN to divest from companies it doesn’t invest in]

The alumni pledge itself decries “Boston University’s continual investment” in fossil fuels as one that “legitimizes the fossil fuel industry, the deconstruction that it has perpetuated, and the injustice it has fostered towards poor communities.”

“Considering the leadership role of the university, I find it contradictory that BU invests its endowment—and therefore my donation—in the fossil fuel industry,” the alumni pledge states. “The extraction and consumption of fossil fuels harms the environment, public health, and exacerbates the already negative consequences of climate change.”

Divest BU’s head of campus engagement, Ivan Badanjak, explained to The Daily Free Press that a target goal of 2,000 signatures “is a large enough number to afford legitimacy to [his] petition,” adding that he set an August deadline in order to organize his next moves “and send the petition over to the school administration before a presumed Board of Trustees meeting.”

[RELATED: Barnard College to divest from ‘climate deniers’]

“Each year, a substantial amount of BU’s operating budget is derived from alumni donations,” he continued. “We are hoping such an initiative would be symbolic enough to the school administration to signal that we want change.”

Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment on the alumni pledge, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski