The Huntington News

University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

Back to Article
Back to Article

University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






By Morgan Lloyd, news staff

Northeastern is not currently considering divestment from offshore funds that invest in fossil fuels, a Northeastern treasurer announced at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

“Our endowment holds roughly 10 percent of its endowment in energy stocks and investment. That’s roughly equivalent to the broad market as a whole,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Thomas Nedell. “That includes renewable energy and that includes fossil fuels. That’s part of the university’s holdings. We’re not going to try and shy away from that.”

Nedell also described a near-200 percent increase in Northeastern’s assets since 2006.

“We’re strong. We’re financially strong,” Nedell said. “We’re in a much better position than we were 10 to 11 years ago.”

Nedell showed that  Northeastern’s net assets grew from $835 million to $1.625 billion between 2006 and 2017, despite having a smaller endowment than many other prestigious universities. This success has led to recognition from the bond credit rating business Moody’s, which assigned Northeastern an A2 rating, signifying that the university’s finances are stable.

“Moody’s, as a third party-validator of our financials, has endorsed our success,” Nedell said. “Back in 2016, they acknowledged that with an upgrade to a positive rating for the university, in a time when the ratings for the higher ed industry writ large was a negative.”

That endowment has been a point of controversy recently after an article published in the Guardian brought to light Northeastern’s investment in an offshore hedge fund that finances fossil fuels.

“It was probably a three-year conversation with students, with some faculty members, with deliberations across the institution that got us to the point where we said ‘No, we’re not going to embrace the direction of divestment,’ and that was the decision.” –Thomas Nedell, senior vice president for finance and treasurer

Nedell said the university seeks to have a diverse investment portfolio to obtain the largest returns. Without investments in energy, he said the portfolio would not be as successful.

“You all are our commitment to sustainability at the institution,” Nedell said. “What happens in the labs and what happens in the classrooms, how we operate our campus, that’s where the university feels that we can have the greatest impact on the issue of sustainability.”

Some faculty had concerns about the university’s investment in fossil fuels, however. Professor of sustainability science and policy professor Jennie Stephens said the university’s gains from fossil fuel investments were not worth the negative impact they could have on its public image.

“I understand your investment in diversity and I recognize the strength of your growth,” she said, “but to return to fossil fuels, it seems like such a small amount that I don’t understand the university’s thinking that they would want to continue to invest in fossil fuels against the cost of bad publicity.”

Peter Desnoyers, an associate professor in the College of Computer and Information Science, said he was concerned about the extent of Northeastern’s commitment to sustainability.

“Perhaps it’s better to frame the fossil fuels question from one of publicity to one of morals and ethics,” Desnoyers said.

Nedell emphasized the legality of Northeastern’s operations, as well as how common hedge fund investments like Northeastern’s are. According to the recently leaked Paradise Papers, more than 100 US colleges and universities have offshore interests. In addition, Nedell pointed out, Northeastern is not directly investing in fossil fuels.

“You can’t go into an enterprise like that and say ‘We don’t like XYZ company, we want to invest in ABC company,” Nedell said.

Ultimately, the university seems unlikely to revise its position on divestment in the near future.

“It was probably a three-year conversation with students, with some faculty members, with deliberations across the institution that got us to the point where we said ‘No, we’re not going to embrace the direction of divestment,’ and that was the decision,” Nedell said.

Also on the Faculty Senate agenda were three items related to graduate degrees. The board changed the name of the Ph.D. of law and public policy to the Ph.D. of public policy and the name of the Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and marine biology to the Ph.D. of marine and environmental sciences. The board also approved a new master’s degree in environmental science and policy.

Navigate Left
  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    SAID hosts BLM activist and co-founder in conversation

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    TEDxNortheasternU holds first TED talk event with all female speakers

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Featured Content

    Engineering clubs pushed out by renovations, with little explanation

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Crime Logs

    Crime Log: Monday, November 26 to Sunday, December 2

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    Northeastern alumni hold final sendoff for Punter’s

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    NU community offers different opinions on midterm outcome

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Featured Content

    Faculty Senate grills CIO on NU’s IT woes

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    Betsy DeVos to change campus sexual assault guidelines

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    SGA president resigns discreetly

  • University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy

    Campus

    Stigma against mental illness is decreasing on college campuses

Navigate Right
The student newspaper of Northeastern University
University not to consider fossil fuel divestment in financial strategy