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Billionaire supports U. coal divestment

Tom Steyer, hedge fund founder, wrote a letter to the Corporation delivered to Paxson Thursday

Tom Steyer, billionaire and founder of the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, urged the University to divest from coal companies in a letter presented Thursday to President Christina Paxson’s office by members of the Brown Divest Coal group.

Steyer wrote that the choice to invest in coal companies was both immoral and a poor financial decision on the part of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

Steyer encouraged the University to “be a leader” in environmental advancement, explaining in his letter that coal divestment would “be a reflection of the urgency with which we must move” to address the rapid pace of climate change.

Steyer founded Farallon in 1986 but left the company last year to “devote himself to public sector work,” according to the biography accompanying his letter. He pledged to donate half his fortune to charitable organizations and gave $22.5 million to the founding of OneCalifornia Bank, which serves underprivileged communities and nonprofits on the West Coast.

Steyer’s was one of two letters presented by about eight Divest Coal members to Kimberly Roskiewicz, assistant to the president, in University Hall at noon Thursday. Paxson was absent, but Roskiewicz said she would ensure Paxson received the letters.

In the second letter, the Brown Divest Coal group requested a “special meeting” with the Advisory and Executive Committee of the Corporation prior to the Corporation’s next meeting in May. A conversation between the two groups would serve to answer committee members’ questions and introduce further information regarding the group’s divestment campaign, members wrote in the letter.

“Setting up a preemptive meeting with us would make the Corporation meeting in May more efficient,” said Dan Sherrell ’13.5, a Brown Divest Coal member and a part of the group who helped present the letters.

Dawn King, visiting assistant professor in environmental studies, was part of the collection of Brown Divest Coal members who presented the letters. She said she has helped with the campaign by assisting with a teach-in led by the group and that she saw the letters as a tool for sparking campus-wide discussion on the issue.

“These letters will hopefully start a dialogue,” she said. “It seems like a very logical place to start.”


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