Fossil Free WashU targets non-donation pledge at alumni and parent donors

Curran Neenan | News Editor

Fossil Free WashU rolled out a no-donation pledge designed to curtail donations to the University until it divests from fossil fuel companies last semester.

The non-donation pledge targets the parents and alumni of Washington University. It asks signatories to refrain from donating to the University—with the exception of scholarship funds—until the endowment divests from fossil fuel companies. The pledge also asks signatories to redirect the money they would have gifted the University to 350.org or Earth Justice, two environmental nonprofits.

The pledge currently has about 70 signatories, according to Fossil Free WashU Head of Communications sophomore Eddie Ives. Promotion of the pledge has been dormant since the end of Parent’s Weekend, but Ives says Fossil Free WashU is starting a new push this semester.

“We’re going to ramp it up starting this semester: advertise it, target certain alumni who haven’t been exposed yet and keep getting it out there,” Ives said.

The pledge targets certain famous and influential alumni, according to Green Action co-president junior Khalid Mahmood.

“We compiled a list of famous alumni who it would definitely be really big if they declared support for this, especially by putting money [in],” Mahmood said. “That’s a way we can quantify our support besides just number of people; this many people have pledged to withhold this amount of money.”

The pledge is Fossil Free’s latest effort in its constant fight against the University’s fossil fuel affiliations. A petition calling for divestment from the 200 largest fossil fuel companies has over 1,200 student signatures.

The University hasn’t bent much on the issue of divestment. Public pressure in 2017 from Fossil Free WashU and the student body prompted Chancellor Mark Wrighton to announce that the University would not be divesting from fossil fuel interests, explaining that “…the investment policy will not be changed or used to support political, social, or other agendas.” Wrighton also announced plans for an endowment advisory committee composed of faculty, students and alumni to “advise the Chancellor on how best to realize the call for transparency and socially responsible investment.” That committee has not yet been seated.

Neither Fossil Free nor Green Action has been able to meet with Chancellor Andrew Martin yet. But despite that, and a lack of significant change in the University’s investment policy, the groups are still optimistic.

“We look forward to working with him. We’re excited for him to be here. We hope that he can take a more proactive role in fighting these issues,” Ives said.

“We want to give Martin a chance to claim this as a win for him. This is something you can do to make Wash. U. a climate leader,” Mahmood said.

Administrative Assistant for Alumni Relations Kathy Lewis said the Alumni Association was not available for comment.

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