Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Nation's First Major Public University Fully Divests From Fossil Fuels

Nation's First Major Public University Fully Divests From Fossil Fuels

By UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

Just over one month after 34 University of Massachusetts students were arrested demanding that the university divest from fossil fuels, the administration announced they would be divesting all direct holdings of the $770 million endowment from coal, oil and gas.

The announcement Wednesday morning makes UMass the first major public university in the U.S. to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry, joining an international movement of universities, religious organizations, retirement funds and other institutions. Photo credit: UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

The announcement Wednesday morning makes UMass the first major public university in the U.S. to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry, joining an international movement of universities, religious organizations, retirement funds and other institutions. To date, more than 500 institutions representing more than $3.4 trillion in managed assets have committed some level of fossil fuel divestment.

The board of directors of the UMass Foundation voted unanimously to divest the university's endowment, from direct holdings in fossil fuels. The UMass Foundation is the private non-profit corporation responsible for overseeing the endowment, valued at $770 million at the end of the last fiscal year.

This decision came as a response to a week-long sit-in at the Whitmore Administration building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, during which 34 students were arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This action was a culmination of four years of organizing for divestment, which began with students at UMass Amherst and spread to include alumni, faculty and and staff across all five UMass campuses. The sit-in took place amidst a coordinated wave of national campus protests for fossil fuel divestment, in which a total of 62 students were arrested this spring.

At UMass, more than 500 students, faculty, staff and community members participated in the momentous action, which pushed University System President Marty Meehan to meet personally with campaign leaders and to declare his commitment to leading the university administration to take immediate action on full divestment.

“This decision is not only an enormous victory for this campaign and for UMass, but for the global climate justice movement," Kristie Herman, a recent graduate and four year core organizer of the campaign, said.

"As the first major public university to fully divest from fossil fuels, we are showing the country and the world that our institutions have a responsibility to align their investments with the public interest and to sever ties with industries that perpetuate injustice. We have pushed our leaders to act with the urgency of this crisis, which has already caused millions of climate related deaths and is making communities across the world uninhabitable every day."

When asked about the vote, Meehan said, "Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students. I'm proud of the students and the entire University community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout my professional life."

Sarah Jacqz, a junior and core organizer, said, “This victory demonstrates that student and community organizing has an incredible capacity to make true and impactful social change and that collectively, we have the power to lead our society to a just and sustainable future."

UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is a UMass Amherst student power organization fighting for climate justice by demanding our institution divest from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies and reinvest in projects and funds in communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. We organize to bring the urgency of the crisis, created by economic inequality and climate change, to those who are responsible and challenge our university to take the bold action necessary to ensure a just future for its students, the Commonwealth and the world.


Exxon Board Rejects All Nine Climate Resolutions at Annual Meeting

Fracked Gas Isn't Green or Clean

5 Huge Climate Success Stories 10 Years After the Release of Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'

Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Lead to a 17 C Rise in Arctic Temperatures

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Atlantic puffins courting at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge in 2009. USFWS / Flickr

When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.

Read More Show Less
Rescue workers dig through the rubble following a gas explosion in Baltimore, Maryland on Aug. 10, 2020. J. Countess / Getty Images

A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.

Read More Show Less
The recalled list includes red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions, which may be tainted with salmonella. Pxhere

Nearly 900 people across the U.S. and Canada have been sickened by salmonella linked to onions distributed by Thomson International, the The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Methane flares at a fracking site near a home in Colorado on Oct. 25, 2014. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

In the coming days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to use its power to roll back yet another Obama-era environmental protection meant to curb air pollution and slow the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Researchers on the ICESCAPE mission, funded by NASA, examine melt ponds and their surrounding ice in 2011 to see how changing conditions in the Arctic affect the biological and chemical makeup of the ocean. NASA / Flickr

By Alex Kirby

The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.

Read More Show Less
President Vladimir Putin is seen enjoying the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Russia's Health Ministry has given regulatory approval for the world's first COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less


A John Deere agricultural tractor sits under a collapsed building following a derecho storm on Aug. 10, 2020 near Franklin Grove, Illinois. Daniel Acker / Getty Images

A powerful series of thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Monday, downing trees, damaging structures and knocking out power to more than a million people.

Read More Show Less