Dear President Daniels and Board of Trustees,

We respectfully request that you divest the Johns Hopkins University endowment from fossil fuels and reinvest in socially and environmentally responsible funds. As you are well aware, our health, environment and future are threatened by increasing global temperatures, biodiversity loss and sea level rise – all consequences of climate change, to which the burning of fossil fuels significantly contributes. Our University should therefore not invest in corporations that extract, produce, or distribute fossil fuels.

In a 2010 letter to the Johns Hopkins University community, you stated, “Global climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges. The earth’s rising temperatures will, over decades to come, affect where and how we live, the ecosystems we inhabit, our quality of life and even our health.” We entirely agree, but would take your assertion one step further – global climate change is humanity’s greatest challenge – one that is already affecting our lives.

You declared further: “Facing this challenge head-on is our shared responsibility, especially as residents of the developed world. But universities have a special role in our society and a special responsibility. We are institutions that discover, that educate and that, often, set an example. When it comes to global climate change, Johns Hopkins will be a leader in all three.” Your assertions are precisely the motivation behind this letter. Facing climate change is our shared responsibility, and our University, with its international reputation and proven leadership, should be at the forefront of this important effort.

Universities, more than other institutions invested in fossil fuel companies, have a distinct role and responsibility because they represent the interests of future generations. As an institution focused on educating the next generation of leaders, our business practices must reflect our values. University endowments currently invest hundreds of millions of dollars in fossil fuel companies, and students across the nation – at Harvard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tufts, Brown, Cornell and Swarthmore, to name a few – are uniting in the fossil fuel divestment campaign.  Hampshire College just agreed to divest their endowment from fossil fuels.  Similar to the divestment against apartheid South Africa campaign, we are confident that with time all major Universities will divest, though whether we seize this opportunity to lead rather than follow remains to be seen. Johns Hopkins was a forerunner in water purification, development of oral rehydration therapy and CPR, momentous achievements for their time.  When future generations look back to this critical point in history, will our reputation as a pioneer hold strong?

Under your leadership, our campus has made strides in sustainability through the initiative to cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2025, the commitment to continue investing in conservation and efficiency measures, and the creation of the Environment, Sustainability and Health Institute. We congratulate and salute you for these achievements, but are writing to tell you these efforts will be negated by continued investment in fossil fuels.

We appreciate that investment returns are critically important for the longevity and success of Johns Hopkins University.  While we do not propose to be investment specialists, Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management recently published a document with evidence to challenge the misperception that socially responsible investments lower long-term returns.  Regardless, financing our education is not worth selling our future. In tradition with our history, let us be innovative in this national movement, and show by action that we believe in what we proclaim.

The thousands of signatures on the enclosed petition show the widespread support for fossil fuel divestment and responsible reinvestment within the Johns Hopkins University community.  We look forward to working with you on these efforts and request a meeting to discuss this further with you in person. Please contact us with any questions, comments or information.

Thank you for your consideration,

sign Johns Hopkins University petition


Jessica Rhodes   ________,   Katherine Jochim, RN  ________, Stephanie Van Dyke, MD  ________,

The JHSPH Class of 2013, and the following students who signed the petition: