Two major universities decided against divesting from fossil fuels this week, continuing the trend of higher education institutions declining to accede to pressure from students.
The University of Pennsylvania and University of Notre Dame announced they would keep their fossil fuel investments despite pushes from student groups. Both universities said their schools would be harmed by completely moving away from fossil fuels.
Notre Dame promised to cease using coal by 2020, but Father John Jenkins, the university's president, said it would be impossible to stop using fossil fuels immediately. Catholic universities have been targeted by divestment activists in recent months after Pope Francis' push to make the church take action on climate change.
In announcing the school's sustainability plan, Jenkins said it recognizes "economic constraints and the centrality of our work as educators and researchers, and it is grounded in the key principles of Catholic teaching."
Divesting from fossil fuel companies has become a popular activist idea on college campuses to try to weaken fossil fuel companies, which many scientists blame for creating the greenhouse gas emissions driving man-made climate change. However, many critics of the idea say that the amount of holdings that universities have in fossil fuel companies is too small to make a real difference in those companies' financial future.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reported the Penn Board of Trustees shot down a proposal from students that fossil fuel companies represent a "moral evil" that should force the university to divest.
"While the trustees recognize that the 'bar' of moral evil presents a rigorously high barrier of consideration, we are resolute in our belief that such a high barrier must be maintained so that investment decisions and the endowment are not used for the purpose of making public policy statements," wrote David Cohen, president of the board, according to the paper.