Coalition denied place on UNC Board of Trustees’agenda

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 04:08 PM

UNC’s Sierra Student Coalition expressed disappointment Tuesday that the group will not get the chance to make a case for coal divestment at this month’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The coalition learned Monday from Trustee Chairman Wade Hargrove that the group would not be included on the agenda when the board meets today and Thursday.

“We are frustrated that it took multiple emails, phone calls and a formal letter to get through to them, only to be turned down two days prior to the meeting,”  said Erin McAnulty, a sophomore from Charlotte and spokesperson for the coalition.

McAnulty said Hargrove responded that the board is aware of the coalition’s concern and a resolution passed recently by UNC’s Student Congress. He said that time constraints would not permit the board to hear the group’s presentation this month.

In a statement, coalition members said they will attend today’s trustees’ meeting and leave information to educate board members about their options regarding divestment.

The group has been lobbying for a place on the board’s agenda for more than a month and was hopeful it would be granted after UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said he was willing to “continue working with students on the issue” and encouraged the group to write a letter requesting a place on the board’s agenda.

“Thorp’s statement, and chair of the Board of Trustees, Wade Hargrove’s, acknowledgement of the SSC’s requests proves that the administration is aware, but unwilling to cater any conversation regarding the issue,” the coalition said.

While similar groups on other campuses have called on their universities to divest from other fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, in addition to coal, the effort at UNC is focused on coal because it’s the most carbon intensive.

The coalition also contends that coal is a risky investment due to low natural gas prices, high construction costs, strict environmental regulations, price volatility and the increased competiveness of renewable energy. 

The group’s call for divestment in coal had gained widespread support on campus in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, UNC’s Student congress voted 24-6 in favor of a resolution asking the university to divest its $2.1 billion endowment for coal mining and coal-fired utility companies.

And last month, 77 percent of students who marked ballots in campus elections voted in favor of a non-binding referendum supporting coal divestment.

Leaders of the coalition believed the resolution, coupled with the approval of the referendum, made a strong case in favor of divestment and would lead to an opportunity to make its case to the trustees.

The coalition’s effort at UNC is part of a movement at more than 250 campuses across the country, including all eight Ivy League schools and many of UNC’s peers.