BOT Task Force Update #1: Transparency

On May 2nd, 2016, the University of Denver Board of Trustees announced that it would commission a special task force on fossil fuel divestment “to consider the full range of issues, explore the approaches taken by other institutions, and consult both with experts and interested parties across campus and beyond” to move forward on divestment. The task force will present its findings and recommendations to the full Board at its January 2017 meeting. The Board will then vote on divestment.

The formation of the task force is the first step that the DU Board of Trustees has taken to engage with the global issue of fossil fuel divestment, and is the result of two and a half years of community organizing by Divest DU. Five student leaders from the Divest DU Core Team presented to the Board on April 14th as upwards of 100 students called the administration to act on climate at a rally outside the meeting space. We recognize the formation of the task force is a direct result of our work to make this issue a priority and the students and faculty who have demanded an appropriate response from the Board of Trustees. Because of this, we feel a strong responsibility to include our supporters in the process. 

On May 20th, Divest DU leaders Kengo Nagaoka, Lori Scott, Nick Stubler, and Danny Brown met for the first time with Task Force members. At the table were Trustees Craig Harrison, Jim Griesemer, Cappy Shopneck, as well as Ed Rowe from the Office of the Chancellor and Kait Willing, now the acting president of the Faculty Senate. 

Jim Griesemer and Cappy Shopneck both served on the University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Higher Education in 2014, with Griesemer as Chair. They expressed their enthusiasm about the process the Task Force is taking to research divestment and excitement about bringing their skills from the Panel into their work.

The purpose of the Task Force is to carefully consider the issue of fossil fuel divestment and present a report and recommendation to the full Board. Griesemer emphasized that the group would prioritize the “rule of reason, civil discourse, and informed discussion” as has been done with Strategic Issues panels. Griesemer and the others also stressed that the process will be almost completely transparent and public. From now until the end of October, the Task Force will bring in multiple community leaders and stakeholders to present to the Task Force and answer questions. Since the three Trustees on the Task Force will not be making any decisions, they said their role is to “listen” at these conversations. Among the individuals they seek to bring in to these hearings will be financial experts and academicians who have studied the issue of divestment. These hearings will be publicized and open to the public. At this point, only two presenters have been confirmed: students leaders from Divest DU and the Faculty Senate. These two presentations will be happening between the start of the 2016-17 academic year and the end of October, when the Task Force will conclude the hearings and start their deliberation process.

To include Divest DU, the DU community, and the larger higher education community in this process of inviting individuals to present, listening to their testimonies, and concatenating their resources and recommendations, the Task Force will be creating a public DU Portfolio webpage. As a transparency measure, this webpage will offer access to full-length videos of testimonials as well as materials presented to the Task Force by Divest DU. The first list of resources from Divest DU is presented here and will be accessible as soon as the DU Portfolio page is up and running.

In order to ensure that student voices from Divest DU are heard throughout this process, we will be allowed to recommend individuals for the Task Force to consult, attend the public hearings and suggest questions beforehand, as well as provide additional reading materials as the Task Force progresses. We are very grateful for these measures, as they recognize our common stake in this issue and the research Divest DU has already done.

Divest DU is committed to ensuring that the University of Denver lives up to its own morals and acts accordingly to combat climate change. We recognize that every day spent in inaction pushes the climate crisis further into unknown territory. We intend to guide the Task Force in its deliberations, continue to organize students around climate action, and ensure that the Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels in January 2017. 

We will be updating you on news about the Task Force as they release their hearing schedules. Please email us at divestdu@gmail.com if you have any questions or suggestions.

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