A new report -- funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America -- argues that colleges that sell holdings in fossil fuel companies are likely to pay a financial price for doing so. The report is by Daniel Fischel, a consultant who is emeritus professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He analyzed the performance of two hypothetical portfolios over a 50-year period, including energy-related stocks in only one of the portfolios. The portfolio without energy stocks had average annual returns of 0.7 percentage points less than the one with the energy stocks. Fischel released his findings in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal called "The Feel-Good Folly of Fossil-Fuel Divestment."
The findings are sure to be challenged. Many proponents of divestment, for example, do not deny that energy stocks have done well historically, but suggest that changes in society, energy policy and the environment will make many energy companies less profitable in the years ahead. Others note that various divestment movements have always been opposed as financially questionable, and that colleges that have divested have not reported financial harm.
Sojourner-Douglass College, in Maryland, has closed a satellite campus as the college fights to deal with serious financial and accreditation problems, The Baltimore Sun reported. All but one of the employees at the Anne Arundel County campus have lost their jobs. Students are being helped to transfer to college's main campus in Baltimore or elsewhere. The college currently has 750 students, down from about 1,300 before the recent problems.
Auburn University will spend $13.9 million for what it says will be the largest scoreboard in higher education. The new display area on the scoreboard will measure 190 feet by 57 feet, compared to the current 71 feet by 28.5. The image at right shows how large the new scoreboard (shaded area) will be, compared to the current one. Al.com did an analysis of how Auburn's new scoreboard will compare with existing, smaller ones. Auburn fans will have 10,830 square feet of scoreboard, compared to 7,661 at Texas A&M and 7,370 at the University of Texas at Austin.
The board of Boston University announced Monday that it has rejected a proposal from a campus group that the university sell investments in companies that produce guns for civilians. The board also released policies on when the university should sell investments for non-financial reasons. Those policies place a particular emphasis on the dangers of the appearance of the university as a whole taking a political position.
"A fundamental goal of Boston University is to create an environment in which an academic community can productively consider, discuss, and debate a variety of viewpoints on social and political issues and that encourages freedom of inquiry. Such conditions allow scholars to pursue knowledge according to standards of evidence and logic without the encumbrance of an institutional position that may dampen discussion of alternative views," the statement said. "When the university, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal. Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions based on social or political principles should be very rare and occur in only the clearest of circumstances.... Such circumstances exist only when (i) the degree of social harm caused by the actions of the firms in the asset class is clearly unacceptable; and (ii) any potential negative consequences of the decision (including the risk of censorship of competing views within the university or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time) are clearly outweighed by the importance of taking the divestment action in order to lessen or mitigate the social harm."
Likely budget cuts to public higher education in Louisiana could be so deep that they would force the closures of some college campuses, The Times-Picayune reported. The administration of Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, projects cuts of $200 million to $300 million, but many legislators are predicting even larger cuts. The Times-Picayune noted that $300 million is roughly the size of public support for Louisiana's community and technical college system. And the figure is about one third of the operating budget of the Louisiana State University System.
Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, is proposing that local governments be allowed to tax colleges and other nonprofit organizations, The Bangor Daily News reported. LePage has proposed the elimination of a state revenue-sharing system that benefits local governments. As part of that budget plan, he would like local governments to be able to impose half the normal property tax rate on nonprofit organizations with property worth more than $500,000 -- a threshold that would include many private colleges and universities. College leaders are speaking out against the measure, saying that it is inappropriate to tax them, and that such a tax would limit their ability to serve Maine students and other students.
Paine College announced Saturday that it is suspending its football program, which its board voted in 2012 to revive. The team played its first season in 2014. A statement from the college noted the financial and accrediting problems facing the historically black college. “At this critical juncture in the history of Paine College, we have no choice but to firmly reestablish the financial health of our college," said a statement from Samuel Sullivan, the interim president “It is only through achieving this condition that we will have a chance of being removed from probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and winning reaffirmation of the college’s accreditation. We must take this and other steps to reduce overall expenditures by the college and increase our net assets. After removal of all sanctions imposed upon the college by SACSCOC, we will conduct a cost benefit analysis and evaluate the return of our football program.”