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Center for Career Exploration will stop inviting fossil fuel companies to recruit on campus

Decision follows meetings with members of Sunrise Brown

<p>Companies that appear on <a href="https://www.ffisolutions.com/the-carbon-underground-200-500/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Carbon Underground 200</a>&nbsp;or fall under the “Oil &amp; Gas Industry” category on Handshake are now excluded from the CCE’s annual recruiting invitation email sent to employers each spring.</p>

Companies that appear on The Carbon Underground 200 or fall under the “Oil & Gas Industry” category on Handshake are now excluded from the CCE’s annual recruiting invitation email sent to employers each spring.

The Center for Career Exploration will no longer invite fossil fuel companies to host on-campus recruitment events, according to a May 2023 email reviewed by The Herald from Matthew Donato, the executive director of the CCE, to leaders of climate activism group Sunrise Brown. Sunrise announced the change on a Jan. 13 Instagram post.

Companies on the Carbon Underground 200 — a list of businesses with the largest holdings in fossil fuels — and those that fall under the “Oil & Gas Industry” category on Handshake were excluded from the CCE's annual recruiting invitation email sent to employers last spring, Donato wrote in an email to The Herald. But companies may still request to participate in on-campus recruiting events and can continue to post jobs on Handshake, and Donato did not respond when asked whether the CCE would permanently withhold invitations to the companies.

“Informed by student interests, we reconsidered what companies we were actively inviting to campus,” Donato wrote, noting that the CCE “has not modified its recruiting policies with regard to fossil fuel companies.” 

The change does not appear on the CCE’s website, and the decision to stop inviting fossil fuel companies to recruit on campus was not publicly communicated.

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This development falls short of a complete victory for members of Sunrise, who argue that the industry has a decades-long history of spreading science disinformation and should not have any relationship with the CCE. Still, Sunrise Brown co-founder Isaac Slevin ’25 said the change is “a very important first step in acknowledging the harm that these companies are doing and how their mission runs completely counter to Brown.” 

According to Sunrise Co-Hub Coordinator Caitlyn Carpenter ’26, the group’s leaders first approached Donato after SLB — the world’s largest offshore drilling company — and ExxonMobil hosted recruiting events with the CCE in fall 2022. The latter was disrupted by nearly 60 student protestors. 

Since then, Sunrise has met with CCE staff nearly a dozen times, with Dean of the College Rashid Zia joining on several occasions, Slevin said. Members of the group also hand-delivered letters to CCE staff members detailing “how fossil fuel companies are destroying our future and lying to us.”

Sunrise members argued that the CCE’s association with fossil fuel companies was a violation of the University’s Business Ethics Policy, which governs relationships between the University and the suppliers with which it conducts business. According to the policy, “the University will not … conduct business with individuals and organizations that directly support the creation and dissemination of science disinformation.”

Sunrise member Gus Konigsmark ’26, who called on the University to adopt a fossil-free careers policy in an April 2023 op-ed published in The Herald, said in an interview that he believes that the CCE’s current practice of allowing fossil fuel companies to recruit at Brown “contradicts the spirit of Brown’s Business Ethics Policy,” even if it isn’t an outright violation. Whether the CCE is violating University policy, Konigsmark said, depends on the definition of “business.” 

According to the CCE’s recruiting fee schedule, for-profit companies must pay $800 to secure a table at an in-person career fair, $350 for a “table” at a virtual fair and $150 to host an information session. 

“There is not a list of ‘approved’ or ‘unapproved’ companies or industries with which departments and individuals at Brown can or cannot engage with,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “Rather, we have broader policy in place rooted in the agreed-upon principles, and that policy guides specific decisions by members of the Brown community as they fulfill roles and responsibilities on campus.”

“Rather than focusing on how to prevent departments or groups from inviting such companies to campus, (Donato) and I were looking for ways to build partnerships across campus to engage and invite employers who are directly working to make a positive impact on climate change,” Zia wrote in an email to The Herald.

“We appreciated those concerns and agreed with some, yet we were equally focused on not preventing other Brown students from accessing employment opportunities that they might be interested in exploring,” Donato wrote in an email to The Herald.

Several Sunrise members familiar with the discussions told The Herald that Donato did not seem to believe he had the authority to implement further recruitment restrictions without a corresponding University-wide policy. 

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“There are so many things that the University does to make sure that it is acting independently and in its students’ best interests, protecting freedom of inquiry and the freedom to research all these different ideas, so it was bizarre to us that keeping out disinformation from recruiting events did not count,” Slevin said.

Brown students have collectively submitted only 22 applications to the 88 job openings currently listed by Oil & Gas companies on Handshake — a figure Donato shared as an indication that “there is little value to Brown students for the CCE to actively seek on-campus participation from these companies.” 

On Tuesday, student activists at Sunrise urged the University to adopt a fossil-free careers policy in a presentation to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management, The Herald previously reported. At the meeting, Sunrise also outlined a proposal for implementing a fossil-free faculty retirement plan and prohibiting researchers from accepting funds from the fossil fuel industry. 

The group first outlined these goals in its Dissociate Now report released in February 2023 and has continued pushing for them through its “Dissociate and Respect” campaign. The Committee plans to review Sunrise’s proposal and submit official recommendations to the University.  

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In the coming months, Sunrise will shift its focus to the “Respect” portion of the campaign, which examines how Brown engages with the Providence community. 

“We're really talking about respect,” Slevin said. “Respect for the community and its residents, respect from an institution with a $6 billion endowment, and needing a more ethical way of conducting research and fundamentally engaging with the community.”

Clarification: Additional context was added to clarify that Donato did not specify whether the CCE would permanently withhold invitations to the companies that did not receive CCE recruiting emails last spring.

Clarification: A previous version of this article characterized the CCE's decision to not invite fossil fuel companies during the academic year as an agreement. The change was a decision by CCE, not a formal agreement. 


Ethan Schenker

Ethan Schenker is a Senior Staff Writer covering staff and student labor. He is from Bethesda, MD, and plans to study International and Public Affairs and Economics. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano and clicking on New York Times notifications.



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