BREAKING: Tufts begins review of investments in fossil fuel industry

Tufts University decided this week to convene an investment advisory committee which will review Tufts’ investments in the fossil fuel industry and advise the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee on its findings.

The decision to activate the Responsible Investment Advisory Group (RIAG), which the Board of Trustees voted to establish in November 2019, follows nearly seven years of student activism on the issue as well as a formal proposal submitted by members of Tufts Climate Action (TCA) encouraging Tufts to join more than a half dozen of its peer institutions in divesting its endowment from fossil fuels.

The RIAG performs case-by-base reviews of the university’s investment activities with “negative social impact” at the request of members of the Tufts community. It can be convened by the approval of the president, provost, chair of the board of trustees and chair of the Investment Committee.

According to the Board of Trustees’ policies, the purpose and scope of the RIAG’s review are defined by the proposal that the administration chooses to act upon, which in this case were laid out in a memorandum from members of TCA and sponsored by the Tufts Community Union Senate, one of the approved bodies that can sponsor a proposal as per the Board of Trustees’ policies.

The proposal, which was sent to Executive Vice President Mike Howard on December 6, 2019, calls on the university to divest from its direct and indirect holdings in the fossil fuel industry. It details the wide-reaching effects of climate change and outlines how fossil fuel divestment at Tufts would impact the fossil fuel industry and contribute to the climate justice movement.

The RIAG will be composed of three trustees appointed by the Board, Tufts’ chief investment officer, the vice president of finance or their representatives, as well as two students and two faculty members appointed by the provost, according to the Board’s policies. According to Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations at Tufts, the process of identifying committee members is now underway.

Once its members are appointed, the group will review the proposal, request pertinent information from the Tufts University Investment Office and write a nonbinding recommendation to the Board’s Investment Committee, which will make the final decision regarding divestment.

Collins said that a timeline for the group’s work will be devised once the group begins meeting.

Robert Kaplan contributed reporting to this article.