Board committee investigating fossil fuel divestment announces membership


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Members of the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition were escorted out of February’s board of trustees meeting after singing an altered version of “We Shall Not be Moved” by the Song Swappers and stating their demands between verses.

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

The board of trustees’ Ad-Hoc Committee on Fossil Fuels appointed six committee members as well as a team of liaisons last week.

The committee, which the board formed in June, is charged with studying whether the University should divest its $4.3-billion endowment of fossil fuel investments. The committee will provide a report by Jan. 15, 2021, on “options on whether, to what extent and via what methods the University, in its Endowment, should consider divestment from fossil fuels in existing and/or future investments.”

The committee plans to host public forums in September and October to gather public input about divestment.

The panel was formed after pressure from the student body, including from groups such as Fossil Free Pitt Coalition, who staged a sit-in in the Cathedral of Learning last spring. The board of trustees unanimously approved a formal socially responsible investing process and committed to carbon neutrality by 2037 in February.

FFPC said three members presented to the committee on Friday about the moral case for divestment, and the pressing need for community reinvestment.

“While we were happy to provide our perspective, this committee is a stalling tactic; the reasons for divestment are already abundantly clear,” FFPC said. “The University’s commitment to snail-paced bureaucracy is extremely disappointing considering the urgency of the climate crisis. Students have been demanding divestment since 2014. There is no time to lose.”

The coalition added that the lack of students involved in the committee is a major problem.

“It is unacceptable that there are no student representatives. After all, it is only due to student activism that the Board is considering this issue,” FFPC said. “It is also extremely concerning that Dawne Hickton was appointed as chair of the committee, given her past professional ties to natural resource extraction industries.”

Headed by chairperson Dawne Hickton, an executive vice president at Jacobs Engineering Group, the committee’s members are:

  • Sundaa Bridgett-Jones, managing director for policy and coalitions at the Rockefeller Foundation
  • Edward Grefenstette, president, CEO and chief investment officer of The Dietrich Foundation
  • Diane Holder, the president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan
  • John Maher III, former representative for District 40 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • Marlee Myers, a partner at Morgan Lewis
  • Herbert Shear, former CEO of logistics company GENCO

Hari Sastry, Pitt’s chief financial officer, will act as a liaison with Aurora Sharrard, the University’s sustainability director, and Natalie Carter, of the Office of Finance, as a support team.