Context: February Board of Trustees meeting


Photo courtesy of Fossil Free Pitt

University officials said the Board will vote on several measures related to fossil fuel divestment and socially responsible investing at their meeting on Friday at 10:30 a.m. Members of the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition demonstrated at Pitt’s previous Board of Trustees meeting at Pitt’s Johnstown campus.

By Jon Moss, News Editor

Pitt’s Board of Trustees will hold its first meeting of 2020 in the William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room on Friday at 10:30 a.m. to provide an update on University affairs to the community.

As the meeting approaches, University officials said the Board will vote on several measures related to fossil fuel divestment and socially responsible investing. Along with these issues, the Board is responsible for all key decisions at the University, including creating the annual budget and setting tuition prices.

In recent years, Pitt has been under pressure from student groups such as the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition to divest its $4.3 billion endowment from fossil fuels. After disrupting a September Board meeting held at the Johnstown branch campus, the coalition held a series of weekly sit-ins outside Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s office throughout the fall semester and hosted a rally outside the Cathedral earlier this month. The group is currently holding a week-long sit-in in the Cathedral of Learning’s commons room.

FFPC demanded the Board hold a vote at its next meeting on Feb. 28, to divest from fossil fuels and set a deadline of April 2020 for the process to be completed — specifying that unclear “appropriate action” would be taken if its demands aren’t met.

University officials have discussed the issue with student leaders in recent years, and following the July release of a report examining several aspects of socially responsible investing, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced last August that the University would begin to develop SRI strategies.

Gallagher charged Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry with developing updated Environmental, Social and Governance criteria for the Board, in order to “positively screen” investments in accordance with University investment objectives and institutional values. Sastry is also charged with screening and presenting proposed investment exclusions to the Board.

University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said in a statement last Friday that the Board will vote on an update to its Environmental, Social and Governance criteria, a resolution on an SRI process that allows community concerns to be considered in making investment exclusions and a resolution of support for Pitt’s commitment to become carbon-neutral.

Zwick did not respond to requests to provide more details or a copy of what exactly the Board will vote on.