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UAZ Divest attends inconclusive meeting with UA Foundation, continues discussion and action with Sept. 23 rally

Members+of+UAZ+Divest+protest+the+University+of+Arizonas+investments+in+fossil+fuels+outside+of+Old+Main.
Courtesy UA Divest
Members of UAZ Divest protest the University of Arizona’s investments in fossil fuels outside of Old Main.

UAZ Divest met with University of Arizona Foundation leaders to continue a discussion about the University of Arizona’s investment in the fossil fuel industry on Aug. 23.

According to a UAZ Divest press release, the meeting with UA Foundation’s CEO JP Roczniak and UA CFO Lisa Rulney ended in the two saying that “they have no plans to meet any requests regarding a public commitment to fossil fuel divestment.” This announcement comes after three years of dialogue between the two parties. 

The UA Foundation serves as the investment committee for the UA’s endowment and currently has $64 million of the money from this endowment invested in the fossil fuel industry, according to UAZ Divest.

A primary goal of UAZ Divest over the past three years has been to get the foundation to commit to complete divestment from fossil fuels by 2029. UAZ Divest says that the foundation is currently unwilling to meet these demands.

“From our understanding of our meetings with the foundation, it seems that one of the biggest things that they worry about is all the doors that possibly divestment would end up closing in their minds, rather than noticing what [divestment] may open,” said Samantha Wetherell, president of UAZ Divest. “So our biggest thing is trying to demonstrate that the community for sustainable investments and for climate-conscious financial solutions is larger than the support that they have now for fossil fuel investments and what we think are outdated energy investments.”

According to Wetherell, despite the disappointing nature of their most recent meeting, communication between UAZ Divest and the UA Foundation continues and no ideas have been definitively discarded.

Another tenet of UAZ Divest’s mission is to “include student representation, with voting power, on the Board of Trustees and the Investments Committee,” according to UAZ Divest’s website.

UAZ Divest says they are using the Arizona Board of Regents as a model example for this student representation. 

“We’re really looking to essentially have a student who has somewhat of a two-year term, like one year of training and then one year of actually serving and being able to vote. We would see this as similar to how ABOR is and how they bring students on with an interview process, probably with even people involved in the foundation to have a student there with financial knowledge,” said Wetherell. “Even if they didn’t have financial knowledge, that’s why we would want that one year of training so that they will be able to learn that and be able to properly represent the student body because they know the topics that are going on in these meetings.”

This desire for increased student engagement with the divestment movement and the university’s energy process is reflected in the upcoming protest UAZ Divest has planned for 12 p.m. on the stage of the University of Arizona Mall on Sept. 23 in conjunction with Global Climate Strike day.

According to Stella Heflin, direct action leader of UAZ Divest, the primary goal of Friday’s rally is to “demand climate action in partnership with the international movement for climate action … raise awareness about the fossil fuel divestment initiative and have our demands heard by more of the student body.”

In addition to joining in on Friday’s rally, there are plenty of ways for students to get involved with this cause.

“One of the biggest things that people can do is attend rallies. We’re going to have one on the 23rd from twelve to one on the Mall. Just showing up for those is pretty big. Signing a petition is a massive one as well. We have that on our website. We also recently created a pledge for alumni, so if you have alumni in your family or somebody you know who maybe would like to sign the pledge to not donate until the foundation divests, we would love that. Those are like the biggest things,” Wetherell said. “Obviously, just join the club if you want. We have an interest form on our website, you can DM us on Instagram [and] most of our meetings are open meetings.”

According to the press release, the full list of demands made by UAZ Divest is as follows:

“1. The University of Arizona Foundation completes a phased divestment from fossil fuels by 2029.

2. The UA Foundation publicly commits to no further investments in the fossil fuel industry from this point on.

3. The UA and UA Foundation concretely define and implement Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) investment policies and partnerships.

4. The UA Foundation includes student representation, with voting power, on the Board of Trustees and the Investments Committee.”


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