University of Massachusetts to Divest From Fossil-Fuel Holdings

  • The $770 million fund eliminated coal holdings in December
  • School says it’s committed to fighting climate change

The University of Massachusetts said it will divest from direct fossil-fuel holdings in its endowment, without specifying the total amount of its investment.

The UMass Foundation, the corporation the oversees the state university’s $770 million endowment fund, decided to immediately eliminate its direct investments, the school said in a statement Wednesday.

Divestment has been a popular issue in recent years among students, who have protested at campuses including UMass. In February Cornell University voted against divesting from oil and gas investments while Stanford University rejected a proposal in April. Yale University’s $26 billion endowment sold less than $10 million in investments in April.

Ray Howell, a spokesman for the foundation, declined to comment on how much of UMass’s endowment was invested in direct fossil-fuel holdings. The endowment has about $5 million in the group, board of trustees chairman Victor Woolridge said in April, according to website Massachusetts Live.

Climate Change

The school said Wednesday that its decision reflects a commitment to fight climate change.

“Divesting from investments in any particular sector is not done lightly and we have done so rarely,” Edward H. D’Alelio, the foundation’s treasurer and investment committee chairman, said in the statement. “That we took this step reflects not just our comfort as fiduciaries but the seriousness with which we see climate change.”

In December, the trustees endorsed the foundation’s decision to divest from all direct holdings in coal companies following pressure from the student group UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. According to the group’s website, the foundation shed $400,000 of coal-related investments. The endowment is now divested from that sector, Howell said.

“Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students,” UMass President Marty Meehan said in the statement.

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