Archive for September, 2011

Students Rally in Rain, Call on UNC Trustees Divest from Coal

Wednesday afternoon in the pouring rain UNC Beyond Coal supporters gathered on the steps of the Ackland Art Museum to rally in front the Board of Trustees as they walked to dinner. The students called on the university to stop funding the coal industry and divest the UNC endowment from coal company holdings. Students held signs proclaiming the negative effects of coal and chanted in support of a responsible endowment.

Several activists inspired the ralliers by sharing their personal stories about the coal industry and explaining that the campaign to move beyond coal to clean energy is among the most important causes on campus and in the country.  Stewart Boss, UNC Sierra Student Coalition Co-Chair, read a copy of the letter that he later delivered to several trustees and the chancellor, and despite the pouring rain the rally was certainly a success.  “Even if there is a hurricane coming we’ll be here to ask the trustees for their support to move the endowment out of coal,” said Sierra Student Coalition organizer Harry Alper, summing up the dedication of the attending students.

The Trustees were impressed as well – board member John Ellison remarked, “Y’all are mighty hearty and you believe in your campaign.”

Students brave the rain and rally in front of the Board of Trustees


September 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

First Media Hit of the Divestment Campaign!

An op-ed piece by The Daily Tar Heel‘s environmental columnist, Holly Beilin, ran in yesterday’s paper and provided a strong endorsement of the Sierra Student Coalition’s coal divestment campaign strategy.  Beilin wrote, “If UNC wants to remain “a national leader in sustainability in American higher education,” as the chancellor said in May of 2010, it’s important to reveal the endowment’s energy holdings and, if necessary, divest in companies that aren’t so green.”

You can read the full piece here.

Chancellor Holden Thorp with former Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign director Bruce Nilles in May 2010, announcing UNC's decision to quit coal.

Not so green, after all

By Holly Beilin | The Daily Tar Heel

The past decade has watched the University put together quite the environmental resume. And, with Chancellor Holden Thorp’s commitment last year to end the University’s use of coal by 2020, there’s plenty of reason to think that resume will only grow greener with time.

But the group that pushed for Thorp’s commitment, the Sierra Club’s Coal-Free Campus campaign, wants more. It wants theUNC Management Company, the body that invests the University’s nearly $2 billion endowment, to make its holdings transparent.

They say that’s the only way UNC can be sure it isn’t investing in companies that haven’t made the same coal-free commitment. And they’re right.

The Management Company’s quarterly investment update from March showed a target of 7 to 8 percent of assets in energy and commodities.

Stewart Boss, co-chairman of the UNC Sierra Student Coalition, said considering about half of the electricity in the U.S. is provided by coal, at least a portion of this money is likely going into the very industry UNC was so proud to turn its back on.

If the coalition’s fears prove true, it would mean that UNC is still a contributor to the overall problem. After all, the nature of pollution is its non-excludability.

Coal burned one, or 10, or even 24 hours away sends just as much carbon dioxide into the environment as coal burned right here on campus.

If UNC wants to remain “a national leader in sustainability in American higher education,” as the chancellor said in May of 2010, it’s important to reveal the endowment’s energy holdings and, if necessary, divest in companies that aren’t so green.

The University has made countless steps toward becoming green so far. The Climate Action Plan, energy conservation projects and renovations to Morrison Residence Hall — which won the EPA’s first annual Energy Star National Building Competition in 2010 — all point to the University’s environmentally progressive direction.

But the University’s campus is not a bubble. It needs to understand its sphere of responsibility. The endowment money should be invested in companies that share the same strong environmental morality as the students and faculty of UNC.

Holly Beilin is a sophomore global studies major from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Contact her at

Published September 11, 2011 in Opinion

September 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm Leave a comment

Beyond Coal Movie Night – “Dirty Business”

Join UNC Sierra Student Coalition volunteers on campus to watch the movie “Dirty Business” on Wednesday, September 14th at 7 pm in Peabody 218.

RSVP for the event on Facebook.

Coal is one of the greatest threats to public health in our country. Everywhere it is mined, burned, or disposed of it makes people sick. Two years ago, the Sierra Student Coalition won a campaign to stop burning coal on campus at UNC by 2020. But UNC is still funding coal companies through our endowment. So we’ve launched a campaign to move our endowment money out of the coal industry, and reinvest it in clean, renewable energy.

Bring a friend and join other Sierra Student Coalition volunteers for a movie night to learn more about the coal industry, and get involved in our coal divestment campaign.

Questions: Contact Harry Alper at

Check out the movie, Dirty Business, at

September 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

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