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Anti-coal group to talk to trustees

When members of UNC’s Sierra Student Coalition tried to present to the UNC Board of Trustees about coal divestment last spring, they were unsuccessful.

But today they’re on the official board agenda.

SSC’s Beyond Coal initiative aims to get the University to divest its endowment from coal.

Members will give a 50-minute presentation to the board’s finance and infrastructure committee meeting this afternoon. Their goal is to create a working group with students and administrators to research the potential for coal divestment at UNC.

Last spring, Student Congress passed a resolution saying it supported divestment, and 77 percent of students supported a referendum encouraging such a move.

Prior to the presentation, the group is staging a rally on the steps of Wilson Library to garner support for its cause.

“It’s a celebration of the fact that we’ve reached a pivotal point as a campaign,” said Tait Chandler, a member of the group who will present today.

After the rally, presenters and supporters will march to the Carolina Inn for the board meeting.

Jasmine Ruddy, a junior environmental health science major, will also present to the board. She said by the end of the year SSC wants the University to pass a resolution saying it will no longer invest its endowment in coal.

“The step between that is to present the campaign and all of the reasons we think that we should divest,” she said.

Ruddy said she is optimistic about the board’s response to their presentation.

“This isn’t so much about divesting from coal as it is making the choice to invest in sustainability,” she said.

Senior Jocelyn Burney, chairwoman of Student Congress’ oversight and advocacy committee, encouraged students to attend the meeting.

“Congress members represent the students, and they need to know what’s going on in the University,” she said. “This is a big meeting.”

Burney said she was uncertain why the board didn’t respond to the initiative last year.

“The endowment is very important and any big change in where that money is invested is a big decision to make,” she said. “It’s understandable that they’re taking time.”

When the initiative first began at UNC, it was one of only five such divestment movements in the nation. There are now more than 300 campaigns across the country.

“This movement is happening if UNC wants it or not,” Ruddy said. “The question is not if, but when do we want to be a leader or one of the last?”

She said the campaign’s big challenge is the uncertain outcome of the working group’s research.

“We’re at the point where we need the board’s help.”


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