American University refuses to divest from fossil fuels

American University’s board of trustees announced Friday that it would not divest its endowment funds from fossil fuel companies.

Despite pressure from students, faculty, alumni and others, American said it is not feasible to divest. Instead, it agreed to make more of an effort to invest more in alternative energy.


The board said that avoiding fossil fuels would double the costs to manage its investments and might violate its legal, fiduciary duty to maximize returns.

“In weighing the critical elements to partially divest, it was clear that the DC law surpassed the relevance of other considerations, including compelling arguments both for and against divestment,” the board wrote Friday in a public letter.

“Since the conditions for board’s primary fiduciary responsibilities cannot be satisfied, the finance and investment committee concluded that divestment is not an option the board can take to express a position on climate change.”

The board said it will set up a “green” fund to be available to donors to the university if they so choose.

Fossil Free American University, a student group that advocates for divestment, said it was not pleased with the decision.

“This vote doesn’t mean the end of the American University divestment campaign,” Anna Bonomo, a student in the group, said in a statement. “It means that students and faculty will fight harder than ever before for the future we deserve.”

American is one of many colleges and universities that have recently come under intense pressure to divest from fossil fuels. Students this week sued Harvard University for its refusal to divest.