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Purdue faculty push to create a plan to divest university from fossil fuels fails

The University Senate quashed an effort to create a plan divesting the university from fossil fuels (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

A push from Purdue University faculty to create a plan that would divest the school from fossil fuel investments failed to pass the university Senate Monday.

Faculty behind the effort pointed out that other universities, including the University of Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota, have already developed divestment plans. According to Purdue’s Director of Investments, the university has only a small percent of its investments in the energy sector.

Chemistry professor Jonathan Rienstra-Kiracofe said as part of a broader push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the school has a responsibility to move away from fossil fuels.

“We’re basically at the point where it may become too late to avoid substantial negative impacts on the climate of the earth,” he said. “This here is a very small piece of the puzzle, but it’s a part of the puzzle that sends a statement that says Purdue as a university cares about what science is telling us and we’re willing to do our part.”

But several faculty spoke out against the change - noting that while some Purdue professors work on renewable energy projects, the university also has research partnerships with oil and gas companies.

Senator Julie Liu, a chemical engineering professor, said many colleagues in her department were opposed to the move.

“I think it is a slap in the face to our partners, the oil and gas companies who work with our students and hire our students, to say we want to take all the money we have in you and take it out,” she said.

The motion failed after a tie vote. It required a majority in order to pass.

But supporters of the move said that, while they were disappointed by its failure to pass, they plan to try again soon.

“The tie vote it received from the University Senate today indicates that we are very close to having a proposal that will pass,” Rienstra-Kiracofe said in an email following the vote. “The Faculty Sustainability Committee will consider modifications to the proposal that would hopefully result in legislation that the Senate will approve next year.”