UB Foundation's investment in fossil fuel is unethical and hypocritical

Investment reflects lack of transparency, contradicts commitment to sustainability

The UB Foundation used an offshore fund to invest in fracking and fossil fuels, despite publicly insisting it is committed to environmental sustainability.

The foundation is a shareholder in EnCap Flatrock Midstream, a firm based in the Cayman Islands that solely invests in North American natural gas and oil industries, leaked documents released on Nov. 17 revealed.

This revelation is incredibly disappointing.

The school claims UB is an environmental champion, a leading force in sustainability. And yet behind closed doors, its foundation supports industries known to damage our planet.

Students from Fossil Free UB, who in May passed a resolution through the Faculty Senate calling for the foundation to re-invest in clean energy, are angry. The university deceived them. Before the revelations hit, UB Foundation Director Ed Schneider assured concerned students that UB had no “direct investments” in the industry.

But this was obviously a disingenuous statement. And no parsing of definitions or excuses about what “direct investments” means can change the fact that students feel deceived and played.

In June, UB President Satish Tripathi said the university is taking “clear, measurable action to respond to the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change.”

Now, we know that is only partially true. UB does have solar power and zero waste initiatives. Greiner Hall received a “gold” rating from U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification system. UB Campus Dining attempts to compost food waste at several dining halls. Professors and researchers are actively working to combat climate change.

But these programs are superficial at best if our foundation is actively undermining their purpose by funding an industry that is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.

Methane gas leakage from fracking creates more pollution than coal and is set to lead to a sharp increase in climate changing greenhouse gases, according to a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency study.

In 2014, New York State banned fracking because of concerns about health risks. The decision came after a seven-year study.

Even before we graduate, UB representatives start asking us to donate. Why should we – or anyone – give money to a foundation that doesn’t tell us the truth about its investments or how it spends our money?

UBF’s investment in fossil fuels shows our university cares more about profit than social responsibility and more about image than truth.

Because it is a private entity, the foundation isn’t legally required to be transparent about its investments. The university says it is committed to upholding “best practice” –– but the foundation’s opacity is far from best practice.

The foundation’s directors have a choice; they could choose to do the right thing and open the books. They could choose to act ethically, apologize for misleading students and agree to answer questions clearly and honestly in the future.

UB is among the top research institutions in the country. Students, alumni, donors and the public deserve answers that befit the university’s ranking.

Anything less is an insult to the university community.

Email: opinion@ubspectrum.com