At the invitation of student and faculty sustainability groups, Board of Trustees Chair Meyer Koplow attended a Tuesday night screening of a documentary discussing the decline of conventional fossil fuels and the rise of extreme oil and gas extraction.
The visit comes as the Board of Trustees considers a continued call from students, faculty and staff to divest from fossil fuels. The board is to vote on the matter in November after they postponed a vote scheduled for the end of June, saying they required more time and would have to update investment guidelines which were last updated in 1973.
Prior to the start of the documentary, Professor Sabine von Mering (ENVS/GRALL/WMGS), a member of Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT)—the faculty group which sponsored the event—told the audience of about 50 Brandeis community members that Koplow “kept his promise and came to join us tonight.”
In her introduction, von Mering explained the role of the Board of Trustees. “One of [the Trustees] main responsibilities is to make sure the university stands on healthy financial footing,” she said. “That also means they supervise the investments the university makes.”
Von Mering explained that the tuition which students pay to attend university covers only about 60 percent of the university’s expenses and that the “Trustees have to invest your money and the money of generous donors profitably” in order to help cover the total costs.
The divestment movement led by groups such as FACT and Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) has focused on convincing the Board of Trustees to remove university endowment funds from investors that support fossil fuels.
“We know that nobody among the trustees is eager to divest from fossil fuels,” von Mering told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview, “our job is to make clear why we think it is imperative.”
Koplow was invited to the documentary screening following the Board of Trustees’ June announcement that a vote on the issue of divestment would take place in November rather than within the original 60 day deadline set by the board in April.
“When [Koplow] said in June that [the Board] wanted more time we said we are going to use that time wisely,” von Mering told The Hoot, speaking to why she chose to invite Koplow to the screening. Von Mering told The Hoot that she plans to invite the Trustees to further events as they arise throughout the academic year.
Entitled “To the Ends of the Earth,” the hour and 24 minute documentary presented the case that conventional fossil fuels—a finite resource—are becoming increasingly scarce, forcing the fossil fuel industry to turn to new methods of searching for and obtaining oil and gas. The video questioned the environmental safety of practices such as Arctic drilling and fracking as well as the effects of these practices on human activity and the economy.
“The film really shows we need much more dramatic changes,” von Mering told The Hoot.
Koplow remained for the entirety of the documentary and engaged in a discussion with attendees at the end of the film. “I appreciate that he kept that promise [to attend the screening],” von Mering told The Hoot.