THE BLOG
07/01/2014 05:31 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2014

Catholic University's Divestment Decision A Call to Action on Climate and Human Rights

The University of Dayton recently announced it will begin taking steps to divest from major coal and fossil fuel companies.

This action follows a new investment policy recently approved unanimously by our Board of Trustees that reflects the University's longstanding and unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability, human rights and our Catholic mission.

In his 2014 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis tells us that "Nature ... is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it. Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations."

As a Catholic university, we take very seriously our responsibility to serve as good stewards of the earth, to use our gifts to protect human life and dignity, and to exercise our care for all God's creation.

The University of Dayton has a long track record when it comes to environmental sustainability and human rights -- a record that includes both scholarship and action. Through academics, research, service, community responsibility, leadership programs, and responsible campus and facilities operations, our commitment to both sustainability and human rights touches the campus, our region and our world.

  • We have developed academic and research programs in sustainability and clean energy and have taken significant steps to green our campus' operations, resulting in The Princeton Review including the University of Dayton in its Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

  • Likewise, we have been a pioneer in human rights education and have convened global leaders to discuss the future of human rights. As a result, we cannot ignore the negative consequences of climate change, which disproportionately impact the world's most vulnerable people.

And so our beliefs tell us it is time to take the next logical step in a long-term strategy--and to act in accordance with Catholic social teachings, our Marianist values and our commitment to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

While this decision was driven by our Catholic directive to be responsible stewards of our planet, we also recognize the importance of our fiduciary responsibility.

Trustees and consultants working with the University conducted significant research and analysis on the potential effects of taking this action, and we are confident this divestment strategy, and our subsequent plans to invest in green and sustainable technologies or holdings while restricting future investments in private equity or hedge funds whose investments support fossil fuel or significant carbon-producing holdings, will not have a significant negative financial impact on the University.

We believe we are the first Catholic university in the nation, and the first higher education institution in the Midwest, to take this step. But we hope that we are not the last.

People may ask: what does the University of Dayton think it will accomplish by divesting? Ultimately, we want to serve as a catalyst for civil discussion and positive change that benefits our planet. We hope to set a standard among Catholic universities nationwide -- to broaden and deepen the discussion on this critical issue, creating an environment in which genuine solutions to climate change become possible.

If our action sparks further discussion about climate change and the responsibility we all hold to curb its potentially devastating impact, then we will have been successful.