Sep 30 2015

Position Statement on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Dear Members of the University of Montana Community,

The mission of the University of Montana Foundation (UM Foundation) is to increase philanthropic support to ensure the excellence, access and affordability of the University of Montana (UM). This is done through fundraising that focuses on the priorities set forth by the University; building and maintaining relationships with alumni, friends, and organizations who donate to the University; and prudent management of the endowment.

The investment objective of the UM Foundation is to generate real rates of return over the long term that result in the capital appreciation necessary to support UM’s mission in perpetuity. To achieve this objective, portfolio construction focuses on a diversified mix of investments across asset classes while remaining within an appropriate risk profile. This allows the UM Foundation to follow the mandate of its donors to provide the University the maximum resources possible for its students, faculty, and staff.

We believe climate change is an important issue that deserves research and discussion as we seek to understand the ever-changing environment in which we live. The UM Foundation has been considering this issue for many months. We have had discussions with Reinvest Montana, a student and community group, regarding their proposal to divest the Foundation’s long-term investment portfolio of fossil fuel companies; the Associated Students of the University of Montana; other university foundations; and investment professionals.

As UM Foundation Trustees we serve as fiduciaries. We analyze each investment based on the reward for the financial risk undertaken and use a wide array of investment strategies to maximize investment return. Therefore, having carefully investigated the impact of divestment on the Foundation’s long-term investment portfolio and our ability to support the University, we have determined not to divest at this time. We note that various private universities and public university foundations have reviewed, or are in the process of reviewing, this issue, and no clear consensus has been reached on the effectiveness of divestment on climate change.

The UM Foundation’s mission does not include engaging in or advocating for social or political change. Climate change is a complex scientific and economic challenge the world is working to understand and address. Universities play a pivotal role in the study of this issue, and the Foundation encourages continued research and discussion here at UM. As Trustees, we are proud of UM's tradition of fostering dialogue on issues of all kinds throughout its history. We believe that the University is the place to ask challenging questions and pursue answers to those questions through education and research. Climate change is one of those challenging questions. The UM Foundation’s goal and our mission is to provide resources for the University to achieve these aims.

University of Montana Foundation Board of Trustees