Creighton University students who cast ballots Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting university funds from the fossil fuel industry.

The students said through their referendum that Creighton should freeze any new investments in fossil fuels. By 2025, the students say, Creighton should divest the 2% of its endowment that is invested in the top 200 carbon-emitting fossil fuel companies. Creighton’s endowment was about $570 million as of mid-2018.

Cindy Workman, a Creighton spokeswoman, said administrators will consider the students’ wishes. “The university will assess its options and provide a statement to campus next week,” Workman said.

About 2,440 Creighton students voted, and 85.8% of them supported the proposal, said Hugh Truempi, a student promoting the referendum. The vote is nonbinding, so it amounts to a student-body recommendation to Creighton’s administration.

“We’re hopeful that they’ll meet our demands,” said one of the leaders of the student movement, Mike Galeski of Omaha. Galeski said the vote reflected not only an acknowledgment of the hazards of climate change but also would be a wise financial decision over the long haul.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

The referendum also says the university should fully divest from fossil fuel companies by the time Creighton reaches carbon neutrality.

Carbon neutrality generally refers to a net amount of zero carbon emissions. Scientists say carbon dioxide, which is emitted into the atmosphere from fossil fuels, traps heat and raises Earth’s temperature. Fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas.

Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, agreed this year to end future investments in fossil fuel companies.

Some of the colleges across the nation that have divested from fossil fuels include Seattle and Syracuse Universities and the Universities of Massachusetts, Dayton and California.

California investment managers said they weren’t bowing to political pressure. Instead, they said, such fuels pose “a long-term risk to generating strong returns.”

Although Creighton’s enrollment is about 8,820, Truempi said the turnout was comparatively strong. “Yeah, we’re really fired up,” he said.

Galeski said his organization, originally called Creighton Climate Movement, “has run into quite a few frustrations with this situation of late.”

Among those, he said, his group last week received a letter of demand from Creighton’s general counsel, James Jansen. Jansen said Creighton Climate Movement should stop using the Creighton name on its materials (such as T-shirts) and refrain from using Creighton facilities.

“So it was pretty shocking for us,” Galeski said a few days ago.

Workman said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, Creighton’s president, appreciates the students’ concern, commitment and passion.

Workman said Jansen’s letter reflects no negativity toward the organization. Rather, she said, it indicated that the organization hadn’t gone through proper university channels to be officially recognized as a campus organization.

Letting Creighton Climate Movement use the Creighton name would set a bad precedent for groups that don’t use appropriate campus procedures to gain recognition, Workman said.

“If we let one group, then it just snowballs,” she said. Galeski, a sustainability major, said his group now is going by the name “Climate Movement.” He said the letter surprised his group “given the fact that we had been acknowledged by the administration the entirety of last semester.”

Meetings with administrators produced no objection to the group name, Galeski said, until six days before the student vote.

Truempi, a senior economics major from Minnesota, said he hopes Hendrickson will go along with the will of the students. Truempi said: “I would like to believe that as a man of faith and goodwill, he is not opposed to the moral imperative of this ask.”

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

rick.ruggles@owh.com, 402-444-1123

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments