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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

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Senate passes resolution urging University to divest from fossil fuels

On Wednesday afternoon, the Notre Dame student senate passed a resolution urging the University to divest from all fossil fuel investments within the next five years.

The resolution, SS 2324-12, was put forward by director of sustainability Lizzie Stifel, alongside 14 senators. Stifel argued the resolution was necessary in order for the University to reflect Catholic morality through its investment. Stifel pointed to statements by Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urging Catholics to combat climate change and consider divesting from companies not working to limit their emissions.

“There’s no reason to wait to divest from something that morally contradicts our values,” she said.

Stifel said the sustainability committee met with the Office of Sustainability and Campus Ministry to discuss the resolution. The committee was unable to meet with the investment office this year despite having met with them the year before.

Based on these conversations, Stifel said the University invests approximately 4% of their portfolio in fossil fuels, although further details on the investment portfolio are private.

While some senators expressed concerns the resolution would do little to actually change University policy, Stifel argued the resolution was important in order to show student support and put pressure on the University to change their policy.

Stifel and other sponsors of the resolution argued divesting from fossil fuels would not seriously harm the University's endowment although other senators questioned whether enough research had been done to support that claim.

Alumni Hall senator Louis Cornett spoke out against the resolution, even threatening to resign if it was passed.

“This resolution completely disregards how the endowment and the future of Notre Dame financials will be impacted by a shift away from fossil fuels,” he said. “Because of my passion for this issue, and what I believe is my duty to the University of Notre Dame as an elected official, I believe I will have no alternative but to resign as senator of Alumni Hall if the resolution passes.”

In the end, the resolution was passed with a substantial majority. Cornett and another senator left the room after the resolution was passed.

Also passed in Wednesday’s meeting was resolution SS 2324-11 which calls for the North Dining Hall wall to be updated to add Johnson Family Hall, the Undergraduate Community in Fischer and the new men’s residence hall which will open in August. 

A previous version of this resolution had been narrowly passed earlier in March. That version called for the removal of Zahm Hall from the wall, but student body president Daniel Jung decided not to sign the resolution in order to allow for more discussion. Because it had not been initially signed, it now requires a two-thirds majority in order to be passed.

In response to Jung’s decision not to sign the resolution and concerns raised by the members of the student senate about removing the Zahm name, resolution co-author and sponsor senator Sam Godinez of Dillon Hall added an addendum to the resolution explaining that he would be willing to amend the resolution in order to keep Zahm on the wall, at least for now.

“[I] have agreed to maintain the signature of a residence hall already discontinued in the NDH wall, provided that they operate as a swing dorm and presently house undergraduate students,” Godinez wrote.

Accordingly, when the resolution was raised in general orders during this meeting, Godinez immediately added a friendly amendment to allow Zahm to remain on the wall as long as it serves as a swing dorm, which was approved by the other sponsors of the resolution.

Following this, the senate voted to forgo questioning and debate in order to vote on the bill. It passed unanimously.

After these two resolutions passed, the senate then considered the nomination of two assistant student union treasurers. Grace Zaucha, a freshman accounting and romance languages double major, and Kelsey Casella, a sophomore accounting major were nominated for the positions.

Both nominations were approved unanimously without debate.

Finally, the senate unanimously approved an order from Sorin Hall senator Andrew Ryan to add a period to a sentence in the constitution without punctuation.