In a recent Arabella Advisors report, Assets in Action: How Catholic Institutions Are Using Their Investments to Counter Climate Change, the University of Dayton was featured as an exemplar institution for philanthropy and social responsibility. Along with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, the university was uplifted for “teaching important lessons by aligning its portfolio with its values”.
The University of Dayton’s story is outlined as one of a deliberate and strong effort to stay true to its Catholic mission and identity. In June 2014, the university decided to apply this principle to their sustainability policy and divested from coal and other fossil fuels. Interim provost Paul Benson states, “Our decisions have always been couched in our Catholic values, and having a long history of adhering to our mission allowed us to make a bold decision to divest.”
Benson says that the board of directors at the university recognize that the divestment has the potential to adversely affect their financial performance. That did not stop them from divesting. In fact, “it brought together students, board members, our president, and other groups to learn and collaborate.” The decision also sparked increased academic involvement on the issue of climate change and sustainability. A group of undergraduate finance students now manages a portion of the university’s endowment through “a divestment lens”, the establishment of the Hanley Sustainability Institute, a minor in sustainability, energy and environment, and much more.
Included in their efforts to continue educating the university community on and advocating for sustainability initiatives, the university will hold a conference very much inspired by Laudato Si. The “Divest/Invest” Conference will take place November 5-7 on the university’s River Campus. It will feature panel discussions on subjects such as the theological and ethical reasoning behind divestment, ecumenical coalitions for institutional responses to climate change and energy access, and many more. Visit the event webpage for more information.