McGill Faculty & Librarians for Divestment
For Immediate Release – 24 March 2016
McGill Board of Governors Maintains Investment in Global Warming
Montreal, QC— 24 March 2016 — McGill Faculty & Librarians for Divestment condemns the decision yesterday by the Board of Governors of McGill University to continue the University’s investment in global warming. The decision came as the Board approved the recommendation of its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) to deny a student-led petition to divest the University’s endowment from the fossil-fuel industry. In its report, CAMSR found that the fossil-fuel industry does not cause social injury in the form of grave injurious impact on the environment. The CAMSR report asserts that “grave injurious impact is a threshold which arguably has not been reached and can yet be avoided” (Section V).
“Does the Board really expect the McGill community to stomach the idea that killing 150,000 people per year, as global warming already does, fails to constitute grave injurious impact?” asked Professor Greg Mikkelson of McGill’s Department of Philosophy and School of Environment. “Do these people really expect us to accept the idea that the massive biodiversity loss already caused by global warming and ocean acidification does not constitute grave injurious impact?”
The Board of Governors decision took place on short notice in a meeting closed to the public. Board members received the confidential report one day before the vote was to take place. The students who submitted the divestment petition and accompanying 150-page research brief were not informed of the presentation of the CAMSR report or the Board vote. Requests to release a preliminary report to allow for response from the petitioners and open consultation with the campus community were rejected. The names of parties consulted by CAMSR in preparing its report were not disclosed. The Board discussion and vote on the CAMSR recommendation were closed to the campus community.
“It seems the Board of Governors wanted to rush through this approval with as little consultation and scrutiny as possible, and that all its talk about appreciating and respecting the students’ efforts was empty rhetoric,” said Professor Darin Barney, Grierson Chair in Communication Studies at McGill. “This is the sort of thing that leads people to lose faith in the integrity of the institution and its governance.”
The Board of Governors is the first and only body at McGill to vote against the petition on divestment. Resolutions supporting the divestment petition have been adopted by the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Arts, McGill School of Environment, the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, the Students’ Society of McGill University, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, the MacDonald Campus Students’ Society, the Arts Undergraduate Society and the Association of McGill University Support Employees. Thousands have signed letters and petitions in support of divestment.
McGill Faculty & Librarians for Divestment is particularly concerned with the poor quality of evidence and argumentation presented in the CAMSR Report. For example, in an effort to relieve fossil-fuel companies of their responsibility for global warming and justify McGill’s investment in those firms, the Report attributes the negative impact of carbon emissions to “the end-use consumption of fossil fuels” (Section V). “This is like blaming smokers for the carcinogenic properties of cigarettes,” said Prof. Shaun Lovejoy, of the Department of Physics. “By that logic, McGill would never have divested from tobacco companies, which it did in 2007.”
“With this decision, based on reasoning in a Report that does not withstand scrutiny, the Board of Governors claims to deliberate on behalf of the McGill community despite a chorus of academic expression to the contrary,” says Prof. Richard Janda, of the Faculty of Law. “I am saddened and disappointed by the failure by the Board to take a position of intellectual and moral leadership on the most important scientific and social issue of our time.”
McGill faculty members available for additional comment:
Prof. Shaun Lovejoy (English and French)
Department of Physics
Prof Greg Mikkelson
Dept. of Philosophy and McGill School of Environment
Prof. Darin Barney (English)
Dept. of Art History & Communication Studies
Report of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility https://www.mcgill.ca/boardofgovernors/files/boardofgovernors/gd15-44_camsr_report.pdf
McGill Faculty for Divestment letter http://www.mcgillfacultyfordivestment.com/
Divest McGill http://divestmcgill.com/about/our-campaign/