SUNY New Paltz Foundation votes to divest from fossil fuel companies

The SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board voted overwhelmingly to remove endowment funds from direct investment in fossil fuel companies at its board meeting today.

“This divestment from fossil fuels is the right thing to do,” said President Donald P. Christian. “Climate change resulting from the use of fossil fuels presents issues of significant concern to all, including the faculty, students, staff, alumni and supporters of SUNY New Paltz. This important action by the Foundation points toward a future that recognizes the College’s sustainability goals while balancing its fiscal responsibility to donors.”

The initial request to consider divestment came from a group of students who raised the issue with the College President in September 2016. Christian suggested the students involve faculty governance in the discussion through the Sustainability Committee, and he committed to bring the issue to the Foundation Board’s Finance and Investment Committee at its next meeting in November 2016. He strongly encouraged the Board to support divestment while safeguarding endowment funds. Meanwhile, the Sustainability Committee proposed a divestment resolution that the full faculty approved at its November meeting.

“I am delighted that the Foundation Board has shown such support for those passionate about divestment,” said Erica Marks, vice president for development and alumni relations at SUNY New Paltz and Executive Director of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation. “Committee members drew on expert guidance and researched divestment at other colleges and universities before coming to this inspiring conclusion.”

The SUNY New Paltz Foundation endowment currently stands at about $20 million. Data as of June 30, 2017, shows that about 4.5 percent, or $920,055, was directly invested in fossil fuel companies.

The funds that will be divested as of Dec. 31, 2017, have been contributed by private donors, some living, some not, to establish endowments. These funds are not student tuition dollars. Endowments support scholarships and programs, such as visiting professorships, academic equipment purchases, theatre and music productions, and student travel for educational or athletic purposes, among other programs that benefit students.

The Finance and Investment Committee and the Foundation Board have a responsibility to maximize returns on donated endowed funds for the purposes donors intended.

Under the thoughtful leadership of alumnus and Foundation Board Treasurer, Leonard Boccia ’89 (Finance and Marketing), the Foundation’s Finance and Investment Committee gave careful consideration to this complex issue during the past year at each of its quarterly meetings. At its August 2017 meeting, the committee recommended to the full Foundation Board that it divest from direct investments in fossil fuels.

“The board is made up of distinguished volunteer leaders who help establish the relationships necessary to secure the resources needed to accomplish our strategic goals, and so we have the upmost confidence in this important decision to divest,” said Foundation Board Chair Michael Keegan. “The College community is passionate about important issues, and the Foundation was equally passionate and truly deliberate in the decision-making process that lead to this outcome. With this action, New Paltz is a leader in SUNY.”

The SUNY New Paltz Foundation 
Founded in 1976, the Foundation works to enrich the quality of academic life at SUNY New Paltz by raising private contributions. Gifts to the Foundation enhance the teaching, learning, and discovery that takes place on campus, and allow New Paltz to enrich the cultural, economic and social fabric of the Mid-Hudson region. There is virtually no activity on campus that does not benefit from the gifts made to the Foundation and to the endowment. One hundred percent of donated funds are used for programs that benefit students.