Stanford's trustees say the school will no longer invest in companies that mine coal, joining about a dozen other colleges that have taken the step. The decision cited alternate energy sources that emit less greenhouse gases.
Stanford will liquidate any current holdings in coal-producing companies, the school says. Of the schools that have divested, it's by far the largest.
"Stanford wouldn't say how much it currently invests in coal companies," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports. "Its total endowment was just shy of $19 billion last year."
The university's decision to divest from coal reflects a call from students who "want their university to show leadership in tackling climate change," Elizabeth reports for our Newscast unit.
A student group called Fossil Free Stanford petitioned for the change last year, bringing a review by the university's Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, which includes students and faculty. A student referendum on the issue last month also supported the change.
"The referendum was generally symbolic but it showed that students were united about something in a way that they don't usually get united," student organizer Michael Penuelas tells The Stanford Daily.
The newspaper notes that the push for coal divestment at other schools is meeting resistance:
"In the past week, meanwhile, students at Harvard and Washington University in Saint Louis were arrested for protesting in favor of divestment. Administrators at other schools such as Yale and Brown have also thus far rejected divestment, even after their student bodies passed referendums in support of the action."
In addition to Stanford, other colleges and universities that have divested include Green Mountain College, Hampshire College, and Pitzer College, The Washington Post reports.
Saying that Stanford "has a responsibility as a global citizen," school president John Hennessy said, "The university's review has concluded that coal is one of the most carbon-intensive methods of energy generation and that other sources can be readily substituted for it."
The new policy also requires Stanford to redefine its proxy voting rules to back resolutions calling for companies "to adopt sustainability principles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the energy efficiency of their operations," the school says.
Hennessy added that he sees the move as "a small, but constructive, step."
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