President Curran explains divestment in coal, fossil fuels

By: Katie christoff – A&E Editor

The University of Dayton announced in June that it would begin divesting coal and fossil fuels from its investment pool, making it the first Catholic university in the U.S. to do so. According to the university’s official press release, the decision “reflects the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human rights and its religious mission.”

But what does this divestment really mean, and more importantly, what does it mean for students?

“There will be very little changes, if any, in regards to the divestment,” University of Dayton President Dan Curran told Flyer News.

“Well, maybe I should rephrase that. There will be changes in the way we invest, but there will be no impact on campus,” he continued.

To put it simply, the University will stop investing money in fossil fuels and search for alternative investments that are environmentally friendly. This decision was made after being discussed by the Board of Trustees for over a year, and it will unfold in phases over years to come.

“Completely removing carbon usage from campus is a much longer process,” Curran said. “It would be next to impossible for the university to become carbon and fossil fuel free. Most of the energy in Ohio is coal generated, so we’re going to get our energy from coal for a long time. But we have to ask ourselves: what can we do that’s in our power to make a difference?”

Curran explained that this divestment is just a small part of a larger sustainability initiative. The University signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in 2013, which has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

One way UD has become more sustainable is by building environmentally friendly structures on campus. The GE Aviation building, Caldwell Apartments and even the chapel renovations have all been designed to meet LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Other efforts include the University food program’s recent decision to begin composting and the change in trash collecting companies to become more environmentally sound, according to Curran.

“There’s a lot of research being conducted about sustainability, so I consider this divestment as a part of a larger academic initiative. It’s really a collaborative effort between the students, faculty and administration to come up with ideas,” he said, “and there’s been a lot of great ideas generated by students.” He said the Sustainability Club in particular has helped create a culture of sustainability on campus.

The club focuses on three main concepts: responsible usage of energy, sustainable food systems and waste management, according to Chris Wagner, junior mechanical engineering student and secretary of the Sustainability Club.

Wagner said the club tries to engage students, and will host an open forum this year to release information about and discuss UD’s carbon footprint.

“Some of the best things we can do are things students don’t see,” said Ryan Schuessler, senior mechanical engineering student and director of Sustainability Week. “That’s a problem, getting people to see initiatives and see what goes on behind the scenes.”

“I think we have to talk about it more and more,” Curran said. “We actually have some big announcements coming soon about some great things we’re working on.”

This divestment from fossil fuels, then, is not a major change at UD. It is just one small part of a campus-wide initiative to increase sustainability and reduce carbon usage over time.

“I think the important thing to take away from this is that divestment in and of itself does not have an everyday impact on the student body. It is important in relation to what has already been done by students, faculty and staff and it’s important to what we’re going to do in the future. It’s a symbol of our commitment to sustainability,” Curran said.

Flyer News: Univ. of Dayton's Student Newspaper