NYU faculty calls for endowment to divest from fossil fuels

More than 130 New York University faculty members called for fossil-fuel divestment in an open letter sent to NYU President John Sexton on Monday.

The letter calls on the managers of the university's $3.4 billion endowment to divest from the top 200 publicly traded oil, gas and coal companies. The university currently has an estimated $139 million in fossil-fuel investments.

New York University “has the responsibility to use every peaceful means to mitigate anthropogenic global climate change and adapt to its unfolding, unprecedented challenges,” the letter said.

The letter cites evidence that divestment has historically been effective in instigating political change, such as in the case of the anti-apartheid divestment movement of the 1980s. The faculty members also argue that fossil-fuel assets are overvalued and continued investment in this sector poses a financial threat to the endowment.

The university "has been taking … major steps to address climate change over the last several years,” NYU spokesman John Beckman said in an e-mail. “And we have pledged to go further: to reduce our use of greenhouse gas use by 50% by 2017,” he added.

The letter is available on the group NYU Divest's website.

"We appreciate this group of faculty members sharing their views with us in advance of the report coming later this week from a working group of the University Senate Financial Affairs Committee that is charged with reviewing the issue of endowment investments in fossil-fuel companies," said Mr. Beckman.