Leaders in the coal industry expressed gratitude this afternoon that President Christina Paxson and University administrators have respected their opinions in deciding not to divest from companies that mine and use coal.
“It’s so rewarding to be heard by those in power,” said John Eaves, CEO of Arch Coal, Inc. “We came together, we spoke our minds, and we effected substantive and meaningful change, just like Paxson always promised us we could.”
The University’s decision not to proceed with divestiture marks a victorious end to the coal industry’s long and passionately fought campaign for securing the University’s financial stake in coal. For more than a year, coal interests have painstakingly lobbied the administrators and raised awareness amongst members of the Corporation about the negative effects of coal divestment on their contributions to the University.
“This is something that’s important to us, and we really put our all into making a statement to the University,” said Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy. “The University’s decision is a clear indicator that the administration has our best interests at heart. It just goes to show that corporate power does, in fact, have sway at Brown, and I think I’m not alone in saying that’s incredibly refreshing.”
Those connected with the coal industry said they took advantage of all the methods at their disposal to secure a negative vote for divestment, including using their positions as members of the Corporation's Board of Trustees to fight for their cause. Regardless, they were never sure their arguments were being fairly considered.
“The University has had a shaky history of listening to coal industry executives and shareholders,” said Steven Cohen P'08, a member of the Board of Trustees and hedge fund manager with over $33 million holdings in companies specifically targeted for divestment. “Their priorities haven’t always been on the right track. But this decision marks a huge step forward for positive relations between the Brown administration and the coal community.”
Eaves added that he believes this decision could set a trend for the global divestment movement. “We hope that Brown will serve as a model to other universities on this issue,” he said. “The University really stepped up to the plate on this one, and I’m excited to see how the effects play out across the country and around the world.”
In an email to the Brown community, Paxson said that the decision not to divest was an easy one, after listening to the arguments of the coal industry. “We have to remember who this university is really for," she wrote. "At the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for the coal industry and the people who make money from it. They are the heart of this institution.”
“I know that some people aren’t happy about this decision,” Paxson continued. “We were never going to please everyone. But once the coal industry executives made their voices heard, our choice was clear. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in the name of doing what’s right for a very specific group of very, very wealthy individuals.”