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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Surprising news from Brown University

This is story we've reported on many times, and had reps from Brown Divest Coal on our radio show (you can listen to those shows, and many more, at  We felt at that the time that the students had clear momentum and also enjoyed national support (and media attention) from  So, why did Brown vote to maintain their investment portfolio as is?

Our guess, pure speculation, is the Trustees keep focused purely on a financial/ROI model. They refuse to get caught up in anything not related or grounded in investment strategy.  They leave the political and environmental ramifications for others.

Maybe that is the right approach for an investment team.  Regardless, we report this update and will invite reps from Brown Divest back on the radio side.   

We welcome your comments as well:

BROWN gets a failing grade when it comes to this social responsibility cause.

Brown University's Board of Trustees voted against a proposal to remove the University's investments in the 15 largest coal companies in the U.S, despite the recommendation of the school's Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility and Investment Policy. "I'm deeply disappointed in our administration. The board completely ignored the voices of Brown's community, and of the endowment oversight committee. This could have been a moment for Brown to step up as a leader in the fight against climate change. Instead, the Administration chose to continue supporting an industry that profits from wreaking havoc on frontline communities and destroying our chance for a sustainable future," said Brown student Ruby Goldberg '17.
Prior to Friday's meeting, students from the Brown Divest Coal campaign formally requested that five members of the Board with connections to the coal industry recuse themselves from the vote, to be consistent with Brown's conflict of interest policy. None of those members (Brian Moynihan ’81 P’14, Richard Friedman ’79, Steven Cohen P’08 P’16, Theresia Gouw ’90, Todd Fisher ’87 P’17) acknowledged that request. “The voting process at Brown echos the coal industry’s stranglehold on our nation’s governing bodies. Once again, a corrupt process lead to a dangerous outcome. Unless we confront this system, we won’t be able to make meaningful progress to address climate change,” said Ian Giorgianna ’15, a member of Brown Divest Coal.

The coal industry is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and the number one driver of global warming. The industry also has a considerable impact on the health of communities where it is mined and burned, causing over 13,000 deaths each year. The communities faced with these local environmental hazards of the coal industry are disproportionately low income communities of color. The divestment campaign at Brown is one of 400 fossil fuel divestment campaigns across the country, seeking to signal that it is morally unacceptable to profit from climate change. These campaigns follow in the footsteps of the South African apartheid divestment movement, and hope to similarly mobilize the political will to address the industry’s harms.

The Board’s vote came after a year of active campaigning from the Brown Divest Coal student campaign. Since the fall, students have held rallies, phone-banked, hosted teach-ins, met with administrators, and gathered over 3600 petition signatures from students, alumni, faculty and staff in support of divestment. “To me this vote shows that Brown doesn’t take its commitments to social justice and combating climate change seriously. What’s the point of teaching about climate science or environmental racism if we won’t act on that knowledge? Today our administration was too timid to challenge the status quo, but we’re going to keep pushing them to stand for what is right. Until then, our ‘Boldly Brown’ motto sounds laughable,” said Divest Coal member Kari Malkki ’16

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  1. Wow!! very effective article to me and I thinks all. Surprising news from Brown University is one colossal new for over the world That is very meaningful discussion about BROWN gets a failing grade when it comes to this social responsibility caus. Thanks a lot for it

  2. We did a radio show with some of the students who had pushed for Brown's divestiture and we definitely gave them a failing grade.

    However, sustainable investing is gaining ground around the world, and we expect to see Brown use their money more effectively going forward.

    We'd love to get them on a show to explain their position.