Four University of Nebraska-Lincoln students on Thursday beseeched the NU Board of Regents to divest from fossil fuels.
The students said science gives clear evidence of the destruction wreaked by climate change. The NU system can contribute to the solution by ceasing to invest money in fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, they said.
The topic of man-made climate change is just one more hot-button subject in a nation that is split on many issues. Just Wednesday night, Vice President Mike Pence said climate change is real, but he declined to attribute any of it to human-caused activities.
Kathryn Woerner, a student from Plattsmouth, Nebraska, told the regents that “the people in this room aren’t doing anything” about the climate change crisis. Woerner said the NU system has $91.3 million invested in fossil fuels.
After the meeting, regents Chairman Jim Pillen of Columbus commended the students for being engaged and for speaking up. “There’s work being done behind the scenes,” he said. “We’re studying alternatives.”
Students at many universities have asked their leaders to stop investing in fossil fuels. Creighton University students made the request during the last school year. The Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, Creighton’s president, said the university would reduce its investments in fossil fuel from 8.9% to 5.7%.
Doane University, the University of California system, Georgetown and Stanford are among institutions that have divested or said they plan to divest from fossil fuels.
Woerner told the regents that the four UNL students “came here asking and wanting to work with you” to divest.
Brittni McGuire, a student from Omaha, asked the regents to freeze fossil fuel investments now, divest fully by 2025, and make the institution’s divestment information public.
McGuire said she could cite statistics about fires in the Western U.S. and other calamities, but “you already understand the science and severity” of climate change.
She said there are students and faculty members throughout the NU system who want something done.
“This is a movement,” she said.
In other news from the regents’ meeting:
» NU President Ted Carter said Nebraska Promise, a new program that provides free tuition to students from families that earn less than $60,000 a year, has resulted in big gains in enrollment and revenue for the university system. The system is made up of institutions in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Curtis.
» The regents gave campus leaders authority to reduce student fees in a two-year trial program. The rationale, in part, is that the coronavirus has led to the cancellation of some campus events that student fees support. The regents will review this trial effort each of the next couple of years.
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