UT System's investment in fossil fuel industries sparks backlash, prompts students to push for divestment

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Photo Credit: Mel Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

In the last ten years, The University of Texas Systems’ endowment has grown considerably. In 2010, the fund was worth $10.7 billion. Over the summer of 2018, it reached $31 billion, second only to Harvard University. 

The UT Systems’ endowment is a fund used for “university development,” an ambiguous term that can include things like campus expansion, renovations and land purchases. 

Most of this money comes from oil. The UT System controls millions of acres of land, some of it set aside for public university funding in the Texas constitution, some of it purchased with money from the growing endowment. 

The UT System pays contracting companies to extract oil and natural gas from UT-owned land. The money the system makes from these natural resources, which can reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, is either added to the UT endowment or invested by The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Company (UTIMCO), the investment company responsible for the investment of endowment funds for the UT and A&M University systems. 

UTIMCO investments are also tied heavily to the fossil fuels industry. UTIMCO has investments in a number of petroleum, coal and natural gas companies. 

Clearly, UT students benefit from such a large endowment. However, as scientists, government delegations and U.N. councils have shown time and time again, the fossil fuel industry is not sustainable. 

UT is profiting off of businesses that cause environmental degradation and increased green gas emissions that will ultimately lead to irreversible environmental changes. The UT System must divest from the fossil fuels industry and invest in sustainable sources for the systems’ endowment. 

In this forum, Heather Worth, Co-Political Campaign Director for Students Fighting Climate Change and international business sophomore explains UT’s endowment system and details problems with their involvement with the oil industry. 

Microbiology sophomore Kaya Epstein contextualizes the history of UT’s involvement with the oil industry and urges the University to divest. 

As always, if you have any thoughts on this topic or any other, please feel free to reach out to us at thedailytexanforum@gmail.com.