Dal Senate seeks input on fossil fuel divestment

An ad hoc committee of Dalhousie Senate dedicated to examining fossil fuel divestment held its first meeting in July and is seeking input from “all academic units who self-identify as potentially affected by fossil fuel divestment.”

Since September 2013, campus activist group Divest Dal has advocated for Dalhousie administration to divest the university’s endowment funds from companies found on a list of public companies with the greatest carbon content in their fossil fuel holdings.

With dozens of members routinely in the audience throughout 2014 meetings of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, the group repeatedly broke attendance records.

Divest Dal’s largest showing was at a Board meeting on Nov. 25, 2014, when the Board voted to accept recommendations from a committee that the university not commit to divestment.

A month after Dalhousie’s board rejected divestment, Dalhousie Senate approved a motion creating an ad hoc committee to examine fossil fuel divestment.

In early April 2015, two weeks after Shell Canada announced a $600,000 donation to Dalhousie, Divest Dal added a redesigned Dalhousie flag bearing a Shell logo to the Studley campus flagpole.

Divest Dal campaigner and student Bethany Hindmarsh said in a media release, “Dal’s administrators and board chose the wrong side in the fight against climate change, and Dr. Richard Florizone and Dal’s Board of Governors are more invested in ‘Shellhousie’ than in a sustainable future for all faculty, staff, and students at Dal.”

“Dal’s administrative bodies have shown that they are so beholden to that polluting industry that they are unable to make decisions in the university’s best interest. They’ve chosen not to divest from fossil fuels, ignoring evidence of the benefits of divestment as well as calls from the Dalhousie Students’ Union and Dalhousie Faculty Association.”

Dal News, Dalhousie’s administration-run newspaper, announced in March that $500,000 of Shell’s contribution is scheduled to fund trips, lectures and other activities for Dal students in certain faculties.

The remaining $100,000 is going towards a new Offshore Energy Fund, a fund intended on supporting “student learning opportunities related to offshore oil and gas exploration and development.”

Any group on campus who may be affected by Dalhousie’s potential divestment is encouraged to submit to the Senate committee a “a two page summary statement outlining possible pros and cons from either divesting or not divesting to their academic programs and research.”

Submissions and questions are to be sent to Andrea Power, Associate Secretary, Senate, University Secretariat at andrea.power@dal.ca.

The committee has identified Sept. 15, 2015 as a deadline for submissions, while claiming they will review submissions received on or before Sept. 30, 2015.

In December 2014, Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) council voted to divest the DSU’s investment portfolio of fossil fuels.

The union’s research found they committed to divest $99,317 from the union’s investment portfolio of $2,389,575, at approximately 4.1 per cent of their portfolio’s total value.

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Jesse Ward

Jesse, editor-in-chief of the Gazette, is a fifth-year student of journalism at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College. He started university with three years of experience writing for Teens Now Talk magazine, where he is now copy editor. Before writing a story Jesse likes to think about how his metal detector could finally be useful in researching this one, but there is never a way it could be. Jesse has produced writing and interactive features for Globalnews.ca and The Chronicle Herald. He may be followed on Twitter, @RealJesseWard, or from the Gazette office on Mondays around 8 p.m. to his home in West End Halifax.

Email Jesse at editor@dalgazette.com.

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