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New Vice President of Sustainability Should Push for Divestment

By WSN Editorial Board

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On Jan. 9, President Andrew Hamilton named Cecil Scheib the new assistant vice president of sustainability efforts at NYU. Working alongside Sustainability Director Dianne Anderson, Scheib is expected to further NYU’s efforts to combat climate change, reduce the university’s carbon footprint, improve our sustainability and transition to renewable energy. NYU prides itself on boosting sustainability efforts, meeting its carbon reduction goal and creating of a Co-Generation plant that helped reduce the university’s energy consumption. However, NYU has refused to stop making fossil fuel-related investments, even after NYU Divest’s and the University Senate’s tireless efforts. Scheib should prioritize working with NYU Divest and move NYU towards divestment.

This isn’t Scheib’s first time at NYU. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Director of Energy and Sustainability during which time he helped NYU develop programs for the university’s green efforts. Scheib next worked for the city of New York as the managing director of the Building Resiliency Task Force and as the chief program officer at the non-profit organization Urban Green Council which, according to its mission statement, works to make New York City’s buildings more sustainable. Scheib’s past work seems to align well with Hamilton’s statement that, “Few challenges will be more pressing in the decades ahead than climate change.” However, to truly address the issue of climate change, NYU must divest from fossil fuel investments. While Hamilton also believes that divestment is not the proper action and NYU’s Board of Trustees ignored the University Senate’s vote to divest from fossil fuels, we hope that Scheib will make a different choice and work with NYU Divest to make NYU a greener institution.

As a diverse group of NYU-affiliated members, including current students, faculty, staff and alumni, NYU Divest has made significant progress garnering attention from members of NYU’s administration most symbolically, a 33-hour occupation and more recently, an occupation of an elevator inside the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library. With more than 2,100 likes on its official Facebook page, NYU Divest has clearly gained support from the NYU community as it consistently moves toward further actions, including letters delivered to Hamilton as well as the Board of Trustees. NYU has successfully responded to doubts of whether NYU still held direct investments in companies Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy by disclosing that it has divested direct investments from these two companies. However, it is clear that as NYU starts to move in a positive direction, more conversation should be encouraged between the board, NYU Divest and the Office of Sustainability. It is our hope that Scheib will offer up a fresh perspective on divestment and facilitate discussions between NYU Divest, which will subsequently result in a decision by the Board of Trustees to completely divest.

The board released a response in which members stated their belief that divestment from fossil fuel-related companies would not be financially prudent, would have little effect on global warming and would only serve as a statement. Although NYU would act as a single institution, it would set a precedent for others to also divest. It is not simply making a statement; it is effecting social change.

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