Their handprints will cover a banner painted with images of the fossil fuel industry – an oil well and two smokestacks belching black smoke – and bearing the words “People Not Profit.”
There’s a tension between what students learn in the classroom and how the university uses its money, said Kate DesRoches, a third-year student in environmental studies.
“At the end of the day, they’re still actively financially contributing to the fossil fuel industry, which is the most environmentally and socially destructive industry,” DesRoches said in an interview.
She’s a member of Divest MTA, a student activist group that campaigns for Mount A to move its investment funds out of fossil fuels. You can listen to the interview here:
The event in Sackville is part of student-led actions happening internationally as part of the Fridays for Future movement.
Divest MTA is part of a movement calling for institutional investors around the world to move trillions of dollars out of fossil fuels.
Universities have multimillion dollar funds called endowments which they use to generate money for facilities and operations.
By the end of 2020, Mount Allison’s endowment was worth more than $170 million, according to information publicly available on the university’s website.
Its holdings include names like Exxon Mobil, the Texas-based multinational oil and gas giant.
Overall, the university’s endowment fund had at least $7.4 million in fossil fuel companies by the end of 2019, according to calculations by Divest MTA.
Divest MTA arrived at that figure by comparing the university’s holdings to the Carbon Underground 200, a list identifying “the top 100 coal and the top 100 oil and gas publicly-traded reserve holders globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves.”
A review of those holdings is currently underway, university spokesperson Laura Dillman confirmed.
“In December 2021, the University compared its December 2020 full list of endowment fund fixed income holdings to the 2019 CU200 list, the most recent versions of both lists,” she said in an email.
“In total, Mount Allison holdings include 101 companies listed on the CU200 2019 list, with a combined market value of $7 million, representing 4.5 per cent of the value of the University’s holdings.”
External consultants from the firm Mercer are reviewing how other Canadian universities are approaching the topic, Dillman said.
“Initial findings show that some universities have committed to divestment, some have committed to a greater focus on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors; and some to greater engagement with managers,” Dillman said, in part.
“When the information is received from Mercer, and after it has been considered by the Investment Committee, an update will be made to the community and to those interested in this topic.”
Mount A’s website states the university doesn’t invest directly into individual companies, but rather uses investment managers to invest in “pooled funds.”
The student-led action in Sackville begins at 10:00 a.m. at the Crabtree breezeway, before going indoors to the Student Centre 11 a.m.-1 p.m., followed by a march to Centennial Hall at 1 p.m.
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This article was updated on March 24, 2022 at approximately 10:05 p.m. to reflect changes in the event schedule. It was updated again on March 25, 2022, at approximately 11:22 a.m. to include a response from Mount Allison University. A version of this news story was first published by CHMA on March 23, 2022.