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Fossil Free ND prepares proposal for Office of Investment

| Monday, December 4, 2017

Student-led fossil fuel divestment organization Fossil Free ND wrote a proposal for the Notre Dame Investment Office, calling for a committee to evaluate the University’s endowment and fossil fuel divestment.

Emmet Farnan
Members of Fossil Free ND encourage fossil fuel divestment. The group aims to encourage the administration to evaluate how it allocates its endowment.

In the past, Fossil Free ND has resorted to standard activism and peaceful protest behavior, such as petitioning and rallying on campus. This proposal, club member and junior Adam Wiechman said, marks a change for the group — which is now working through institutional means and with Notre Dame’s Chief Investment Officer, Scott Malpass.

“This year, we decided to make a strategic change for a more administrative approach,” Wiechman said. “We felt like Notre Dame is a university where inside gain is more important, and so we thought that pushing for a committee or working group that would assess the University’s endowment and the ethics of fossil fuel divestment was strategic.”

Wiechman said other universities have created committees or branches of their investment offices to handle ethical questions regarding endowment. Seeing this proposal as a chance to address other ethical questions — not just those related to fossil fuel — Notre Dame student government has pledged its support of the proposal, Wiechman said.

“We’ve been really pleased with student government’s support through all of this,” Wiechman said. “They have been a huge help in guiding us through the proposal writing process and have allowed us to give the proposal with their stamp on it to Scott Malpass.”

The proposal is still in its final stages, but will be sent to the Investment Office within the next few weeks, Wiechman said. Club member and senior Carolyn Yvellez said the Investment Office holds the ability to help the University take a stronger stance against fossil fuel companies. While the Investment Office abides by investment guidelines from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Yvellez said these guidelines are relatively loose and haven’t been updated recently.

“It’s not inclusive of all the morals that encompass Catholic social teaching,” Yvellez said.

Wiechman said Pope Francis’s encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” demonstrated the Vatican’s call for environmental protection against climate change. In it, Pope Francis reminds readers not to separate their actions from the adverse effects they could have on the planet, he said.

“The moral trust of this movement is if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong to profit off of that wreckage,” Wiechman said. “We think that if Notre Dame is going to be an institution that prides itself in being a force for good, and recognizing that climate change is a problem, we shouldn’t be profiting off of that problem.”

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