“To ensure that all fundraising and business operations and activities on behalf of the University of Florida are conducted in accordance with the highest standards of ethical conduct.” – University of Florida Foundation, Inc. Code of Ethics
Let’s face it, UF is a Corporation. But before we can get into our divestment objectives, we need to understand the different economic structures and actors present in UF’s various boardrooms. (tldr)
A financial endowment is a donation of money or property for the ongoing support of that organization. Usually an endowment is structured so that the principal amount is kept intact, while the investment income is available for use, or part of the principal is released each year, which allows for their donation to have an impact over a longer period than if it were spent all at once. The total value of an institution’s investments is often referred to as the institution’s endowment.
So, UF is given money by the Florida legislature to minimize costs to the student body. Unfortunately, corrupt politicians in Tallahassee decided to decrease their support for higher education over recent decades. So much so that UF only obtains around 14% of its total budget from state funds (this money primarily goes to centers and specific earmarked colleges). As a result, UF has had to adapt by reorganizing itself over the last 40 years as an investment corporation and increasing tuition costs over four fold.
The UF Investment Corporation (UFICO) (registration number 4686089) was founded in 2004 to manage the UF Foundation long-term pool fund. While they have a .ufl website, the limited partnership (LP) corporation is based in Delaware. UFICO claims to promote UF by “providing investment research, advice, counsel, and management to and for the University Board of Trustees and affiliated organizations.” They are responsible for managing UF’s $1.62 B investments and $1.92 B total assets.
This is distinct from the University of Florida Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit (TaxID #59-0974739), the fundraising and fund management arm of UF that receives donations and administers private support for the endowment. Their mission is “To promote UF, increase philanthropy, manage and grow the endowment, ensure the appropriate use of funds and pursue best governance practices.” These fund managers are relatively independent bodies although Robert Gidel, James ‘Bill’ W. Heavener, Michael V. McKee, and Thomas J. Mitchell serve on both (UFF, UFICO).
We are not asking UF to throw away money but rather invest and obtain returns elsewhere. We are asking President Fuchs and the Board of Trustees to live up to their ethical commitments and uphold the public good for all Floridians. Given that this pool of money exists in the name of the entire Gator Nation, it is immoral to invest in toxic industries such as big oil, prisons, and arms companies.
Fossil Fuels & Climate Change
Human-caused climate change is one of the greatest threats to the biosphere and long-term survival of society. As such, we believe that the UF has a moral duty to its students, staff, and faculty, as well as to the state of Florida and the future, to cease investments in companies that buy, sell, or trade in fossil fuels. We are referring to companies such as Coal India, Adani Enterprises, Duke Energy, Exxon, BP, Shell, and Chevron to name a few.
Climate change is the direct result of over five decades of burning fossil fuels to produce energy for homes, transportation, and industry. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and increasing global temperatures. These changes have already led to major environmental crises and Florida is incredibly vulnerable. Sea level rise already floods Miami during sunny days. Our long coastline is threatened with inundation from rising seas and intense hurricanes. Our fisheries and coral reefs risk collapse as ocean temperatures rise and seas become more acidic. Severe, long-lasting droughts will stunt crops and damage our economy. Droughts will fuel wildfires that threaten our homes and livelihoods.
As always, it is society’s most vulnerable who will be exposed to the brunt of these events. The economically disadvantaged and marginalized will feel the effects of climate change first and are often the hardest hit. This injustice is compounded by the fact that those with few resources have contributed least to climate change, and are least able to adapting to the threat. This movement has already won substantial victories and grows daily. As the flagship and largest university in one of the most vulnerable states, the UF can become a source of inspiration to other SEC schools by divesting from fossil fuels. By divesting, we are seeking for administrators to close Duke Energy’s Coal Plant on campus and commit to making UF LEED Gold Certified with 75% renewable energy by 2030.
UF has no business investing in the environmental destruction of the swamp or the land of flowers.
Prisons & Prison Labor
The United States has the largest prison population in the world. Florida has become a prison state, with approximately 100k inmates and over 35k within the Florida juvenile system (more than the entire population of Gainesville). We oppose the system which has systematically diverted our peers who, instead of attending college, have been captured by the school-to-prison pipeline.
Many of our peers, who should be here with us on campus, have instead been imprisoned for non-criminal and minor offenses. Most of them are being detained in private prisons run by companies such as GEO Group, CoreCivic (formerly CCA), and G4S. These ‘private security firms’/’corporate mercenaries’ such as G4S have perpetrated numerous heinous acts including neglect, starvation, rape, man-slaughter, and murder.
These companies have made billions of dollars by receiving taxpayer money to rip community members from their families and forcing them into indentured servitude. Their business model is to enter into long-term contracts that forces states to fill prison beds even during times of decreased criminal offending. These prison firms in turn reinvest their profits in political contributions. More so than any other state, these firms have strategically targeted Florida and exploited our tax loopholes to insure their contracts and profits.
In 2017, investigative journalist Vincent McDonald uncovered that the Department of Corrections had been using prison slave labor at least six UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to hand-harvest vegetables and mow lawns including ones at Jay, Citra, Live Oak, Immokalee and Wimauma. In addition to divesting from prisons, we are calling upon UF administrators to also end the IFAS’s use of prison slave labor. UF cannot claim to be an ethical institution while simultaneously profiting from slave labor and companies that prey on our communities.
Surveillance, Arms & Human Rights Violations
In 2016, the U.S. spent $741.3 billion on militarism (approximately 64% of the federal discretionary budget) with $304 billion going directly to private companies. Arms companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Bae Systems, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, CACI, and Airbus.
These arms frequently go to repressive regimes (the U.S. is presently arming 73% of UN identified dictatorial regimes) who use them in brutal military campaigns on their own civilians. Some of these weapons are used to commit war crimes beyond description. For example, the use of U.S. supplied white phosphorus by Saudi Arabia in its ongoing proxy war in Yemen.
Many of these military grade weapons and equipment have also been sold to local police forces on the tax payers dime. Take for example Alachua County’s $ 254,332 Bearcat armored tank and $ 150k Rook, a track-based tank built by the Caterpillar Corporation. Another example would be Defense Technology, a subsidiary of Safari Land Group, which armed private security firms to violently attack the NoDAPL demonstrators at Standing Rock.
These military weapons have been deployed on Floridians in the name of protection and surveillance. FL law enforcement agencies have acquired and used ‘Stingrays’, cell phone location tracking devices which mimic cell phone towers to tap into personal signals, on thousands of occasions. They also have different varieties of ‘Kingfish’ handheld units. Florida Police Departments have spent well over $3 million to purchase these weapons from the Florida-based Harris Corporation, the manufacturer and supplier of surveillance equipment. These military tools being used for surveillance continue with virtually no judicial oversight and constitutes a serious infringement of civil liberties. We have confidence UF admin can find other ways to make money besides war, domestic militarization, and sketchy surveillance schemes.
In all, we are seeking to…
- Divest the UF Endowment from Fossil Fuel Industries.
- The Sunshine Clause: Close Duke Energy’s Coal Plant on campus; commit to making UF LEED Gold Certified producing 75% of its energy via renewable sources by 2030.
- Divest the UF Endowment from the Prison Industry.
- The 13th Clause: End IFAS’s use of prison labor and partnership with the DOC.
- Divest the UF Endowment from Arms and Surveillance Companies.
- The Santa Claus: Add a Divest UF Board member to the UFCIO Board.
We think all of these objectives to be completely reasonable. After all, “The welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens.“