FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the overarching goals of Yale Forward?
How does Yale Forward plan to achieve these goals?
Why did Yale Forward choose this tactic?
We believe that running a traditional organizing campaign will simultaneously boost turnout for the election and demonstrate to Yale that the majority of the alumni body supports our platform. This is about more than the election of any single trustee; this is about building a movement and creating a mandate for change.
How did Yale Forward get started?
How can I support Yale Forward?
Visit yaleforward.org/join to join our supporters list or sign up to volunteer.
Other Yale Efforts
Are Yale Forward and Fossil Free Yale the same organization?
Does Yale Forward work with the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition?
What other climate-focused efforts exist at Yale?
How is Yale Forward funded?
What is The Boarding School?
What does Yale Forward use donations for?
Our website, email server, mailing list, and database;
Printing and mailing of business cards and other campaign materials;
Weekly payments to our interns and campaign manager;
Shipping physical petition forms around the world;
Limited campaign travel (flights/trains/hotels/food costs) for candidates and organizers; and
Volunteer campaign meet-ups around the country and world.
THE YALE CORPORATION & THE ELECTION
What is the Yale Corporation and what does the Corporation do?
What is the difference between the Yale Corporation and the Board of Trustees?
How are the trustees selected?
How do candidates get on the ballot?
Who is eligible to vote?
Why can’t Yale College vote or run for election for five years after they graduate?
What’s wrong with the trustees appointing their own successors?
When is the election and how do I vote?
How is Yale Forward going to achieve the goals of its platform with only one seat on the Corporation?
Shouldn’t candidates for the Corporation not be “single-issue” candidates?
Where can I read about your platform?
Why propose a three-pronged platform? Can’t we have climate action without endowment justice or inclusive governance (and vice versa)?
Don’t people across all generations care about the climate crisis?
Why focus on fossil fuel divestment?
While our platform focuses on divestment from fossil fuels, we think Yale should take a holistic look at how ethical considerations should play a role in the management of the endowment; that is why we’re proposing a new reporting structure for the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility.
What about divestment from Puerto Rican debt and public prisons?
If the processes we follow are the right processes, then we’re confident that putting the issues of Puerto Rican debt and prison divestment through the restructured Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility will yield the right results. Maggie has publicly stated that she “personally believe[s] that Yale University should not profit off of the predatory loans being collected from the Government of Puerto Rico.”
Why divest? Don’t we just need to [insert other climate-positive action]?
Divestment doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive with any other steps taken to battle the climate crisis. The University can afford to be a climate leader through divestment and marshal its academic, research, and lobbying efforts toward fighting the climate crisis as well.
Isn’t divestment a bit drastic?
The effects of climate change are serious and unmistakable – mitigating them will require resolute responses, and the fastest path to a decarbonized economy is to stop investing our money in the fossil fuel industry. Scientists have issued clear and dire warnings, including last autumn’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that stated we will face serious consequences from anthropogenic climate change and that these consequences will be even more catastrophic if we do not make dramatic shifts in how we power the planet (i.e. moving away from fossil fuels) within the next decade.
Does divestment from fossil fuels have a real impact?
The symbolic power of universities leading the way forward is immensely valuable and inspirational. Universities have historically fomented positive social change, serving as ground zero for student-led initiatives to protect free speech, end the Vietnam War, and protest apartheid. In particular, Yale’s symbolic power as an institution of leadership in higher learning is unparalleled, so even “symbolic” gestures go a long way in influencing others to act.
Isn’t it really complicated to divest?
Divestment is not an unprecedented action, and there are plenty of models to follow. One such example is the University of California school system, which in 2019 divested their entire endowment and pension fund (total around $80 billion) in a short time-span. Investment funds regularly reshuffle their investments, exiting industries as time allows. Besides, with the very future of the planet at stake, we cannot afford to stall simply because it will be “complicated” to divest.
Who else is divesting from fossil fuels?
Over 1100 institutions around the world have committed to divestment, representing $12 trillion in assets. Major examples include the European Investment Bank, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the University of California school system, Brown University, Middlebury, Georgetown, the City of New York, and Ireland, among others.
Is divestment going to hurt Yale’s finances?
There is growing evidence that fossil fuels are not necessarily great investments. The price of renewable energy has decreased so steeply over the last decade that renewable energy is now the cheapest way to generate electricity in most of the world. Due to this trend, the fossil fuel sector has underperformed clean energy investments in the market in recent years, meaning that fossil fuel investors have lost significant amounts of money and stand to lose even more the longer they take to divest. In fact, when the UC system announced its decision to divest, the schools’ chief investment officer explained that their reasons for divesting were chiefly financial.
In the last year, more evidence that the tide is turning on fossil fuel investments has come to light: The Intentional Endowments Network released a study showing that universities and college who have adopted sustainable investment measure haven’t suffered financially, and the CEO of BlackRock, which is the world’s largest asset manager, recently published a letter about climate risk requiring a “fundamental reshaping of finance.”
But aren’t fossil fuel companies doing renewable energy research?
While fossil fuel companies tout their investment in renewable energy technologies, the $3 billion that U.S. oil companies have put into renewables over the past five years is a tiny fraction of the $77 billion total investment in renewables in the U.S. over the past two years. These $3 billion appear even more insignificant when compared with the annual profits of these companies: in 2014 alone, publicly-traded fossil fuel companies operating in the U.S. and Canada made a total profit of $257 billion.
Furthermore, we cannot rely on partners who are not acting in good faith. We know that oil companies understood the catastrophic effects of climate change decades ago. Exxon, for instance, began building its drilling rigs to compensate for a rise in sea levels they knew was coming. Rather than releasing this information to the public, they spent billions over three decades building an architecture of deceit, denial, and disinformation designed to keep us in the dark about the harm they were causing in order to increase their profits. The willingness of the fossil fuel industry to lie about these facts is an act of intellectual dishonesty that, performed by a Yale student or professor, would get them suspended, expelled, or fired and flies in the face of the University’s motto: Lux et Veritas. Indeed, these companies were intentionally sowing public doubt and denial of the very science Yale’s professors were seeking to defend.
What about constructive engagement with companies as shareholders?
Yale actually does not have the ability to vote directly on shareholder resolutions in most cases, given that most of the University’s investments are in commingled funds and managed by outside investment firms, meaning Yale does not directly own an individual company’s stocks. The most efficient way to influence these companies is to revoke their social license to continue their environmentally harmful practices by divesting and publicly stating that we will not support their activities with our money.
Is it hypocritical to divest from supply-side fossil fuels while Yale still relies on fossil fuels?
While it is true that current societal systems make it implausible to go without fossil fuels on an individual scale in the short term, the fact that fossil fuels are an entrenched institution cannot serve to protect the industry from ethical pressure. For one, the impact that any individual can have on the climate crisis is heavily constrained by the systems and infrastructures we operate in. That is why, given the extent to which our lives are entangled with fossil fuels, we have a responsibility to advocate for and support large-scale, structural, and collective decarbonization efforts in every way possible.
Is it Yale’s job to confront the climate crisis?
As it becomes clear that no governments will act with the decisiveness required to meet this challenge, there is an increasing need for non-governmental entities to lead, and many institutions have done so. Yale should not fear being alone in taking a stand; in fact, it should fear being left behind. From universities around the world, including the entire University of California system, to world financial centers like New York and London, to the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund (the largest single pool of investment capital in the world), over $11 trillion in endowments and portfolios have moved to divest from fossil fuels. Yale’s name and the sociopolitical weight it carries as the most globally recognized and respected institution of higher learning provides the University a unique platform to assume a stance of indisputable moral leadership in the context of the climate crisis. If we wish to continue attracting the brightest students, researchers, and faculty, we must establish ourselves as indisputable leaders in this space.
Aren’t carbon dividends a better way to regulate fossil fuels than divestment?
Ultimately, it’s not Yale’s job to implement a carbon dividend; that would be a government policy. However, it is Yale’s job to decide how to use their own endowment. There is also nothing about divestment that is incompatible with carbon dividends—in fact, divestment is simply a free-market decision to move capital away from fossil fuels.
Doesn't Yale already have a policy on socially responsible investing in fossil fuels?
Yale CIO David Swensen has previously directed Yale's asset managers to encourage companies "to mitigate financial risks and increase financial returns by reducing GHG emissions". However, Yale's continued investment in companies whose primary source of income is the exploitation of fossil fuels is inconsistent with this approach; companies whose core business revolves around the exploitation, sale, and combustion of fossil fuels cannot reduce emissions to levels consistent with the IPCC's recommendations while continuing to be profitable.
Doesn’t the Yale Corporation already have an Investor Responsibility Committee?
The ACIR and CCIR are very opaque, and neither have been very responsive to the ethical concerns raised by students and alumni. Our Endowment Justice plan will lay out more robust and transparent processes to achieve what the ACIR was allegedly meant to do.
What do the current ACIR and CCIR do?
A group of students, faculty, alumni and staff serve on an advisory committee to pass on recommendations to the CCIR, which makes decisions to guide the Yale Investments Office. However, due to the lack of transparency and efficacy in pushing Yale to ethically divest, more oversight is clearly needed.
Is this about ESG (environmental, social, governance)?
ESG may provide a useful framework and foundation for ethical investments, but Yale can not rely solely on watered-down ESG conventions; we must lead in the development of new ethical investment guidelines.
Climate Research & Education
Given that Yale is already conducting climate research, why do we need more?
Yale is not a place that settles for doing “just enough.” We need to be the indisputable leader in climate research and education.
Given that Yale is already conducting climate research, shouldn’t we invest more money in other areas?
Solving any other societal problem is contingent on having a livable planet, and the climate crisis will exacerbate almost any problem in any facet of society. Smart money is on finding ways to prevent or minimize the effect of climate change.
Recent Alumni Fellows
Why would we want recent alumni on the Corporation? Do they have enough experience?
Isn’t the purpose of the Yale Corporation to take care of the institution rather than cater to its students?
Taking care of the institution means taking care of the institution’s most valuable assets: its current and future students. The Corporation would be better equipped in its mission of looking after the University’s long-term future by including more perspectives of those who were recently on campus and know what the issues that matter most to current students are.
Do other schools do this?
Yes! Many schools have provisions to include recent alumni or current students in their governing bodies. We are particularly inspired by our peers at Princeton and Cornell who instituted inclusive governance practices in 1969, as well as Brown, which reserves seats for New Alumni Trustees.