Last week, the Seattle University Board voted to divest from fossil fuel holdings from the university’s $230 million endowment. Presently, the endowment holds $13.6 million – or 6.7% – stock in fossil fuel companies. The University Board and students would be wise to consider the thoughtful judgement of the Seattle Pension Board last year before deciding to divest from these holdings.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sent a letter to the Seattle Employee’s Retirement System board of administration calling for divestment. The pension board was met with strong opposition from environmental groups – such as 350.org – hoping to sway the board in support of divestment. However, after careful consideration, the pension fund decided against divestment.
The reason for opposing divestment was simple. Playing politics with public money is in direct contrast the fiduciary responsibility of the pension fund managers.
Seattle is widely appreciated for its progressive policies, yet opted to prioritize pensioners over a political agenda. Seattle University should use this same rational before divesting its holdings. Divestment is a failed practice used by some activists to push a political agenda. Those entrusted with power must stay above the fray and focus on the mission instilled in their fiduciary obligations.