Commentary | Librarians and faculty urge divestment


Correction appended February 2, 2016.

On January 19, McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment submitted a longer version of this open letter to McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR).

McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment strongly encourages CAMSR to issue preliminary findings on Divest McGill’s petition concerning divestment of McGill’s endowment fund from the fossil fuel industry prior to completing its final report on the matter.

A preliminary report indicating CAMSR’s provisional findings would allow interested parties and McGill experts on divestment, fossil fuels, and climate justice to make a substantial contribution to the outcome of CAMSR’s deliberations. This would both strengthen CAMSR’s final report and lend greater transparency and accountability to the determination of this important matter.

A preliminary report aimed at facilitating informed, widespread consultation would be consistent with the approach taken recently by other Canadian universities. On December 14, 2015, the Ad hoc Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment at Dalhousie University issued a preliminary report, noting that “the committee is circulating this preliminary version in order to stimulate further discussion and feedback from the university community before preparing its final report.” Similarly, on December 15, 2015, the President’s Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels at the University of Toronto issued its report, noting that it had been preceded by a process of open consultation, which included a “call for submissions to the entire University community” and in which “197 members of the University of Toronto community, including representatives from eight student groups and the Faculty Association, contributed to the process and informed the Committee’s deliberations.”

The extent of CAMSR’s consultations on the Divest McGill petition is unknown to the campus community, as these have been selective and conducted in camera. The McGill community is replete with expertise on issues related to the petition, and has demonstrated growing concern over this matter, as evidenced by the broad and growing base of student and alumni support for Divest McGill’s petition and recent votes of overwhelming support by the Faculty of Arts and the McGill School for the Environment.

The campus community is engaged in this issue, prepared to contribute its expertise, and expectant of an opportunity to express its interests. A preliminary report setting out CAMSR’s provisional findings in a concrete manner, and inviting the campus community to share its views, would facilitate this. It would also make for a level of transparency and accountability that would lend credibility to the decision it has fallen to CAMSR to make on behalf of the entire campus community.

—McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment

Due to an editing mistake, a previous version of this letter stated that CAMSR’s consultations on the Divest McGill petition were conducted on camera. In fact, the consultations were conducted in camera. The Daily regrets the error.