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May 25, 2016

Members of the student-led UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign are calling Wednesday’s announcement a victory. (Courtesy of UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign)

Following a unanimous decision by its Board of Directors, the University of Massachusetts announced Wednesday it will divest its endowment from direct holdings in fossil fuels.

UMass will become the first major public university in the country to divest its $770 million endowment from fossil fuel companies.

Under pressure from the student-led Umass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, the university system dropped its stocks in major coal companies last year. But activists continues to demand divestment from all fossil fuel companies

“We won," members of the Umass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign wrote on the group’s Facebook page. "This decision by the board was a direct result of the immense power and support of student and community organizing."

UMass President Marty Meehan says the current decision highlights the university's mission to be a steward of the land.

"This action is consistent with the principles that have guided our university since its Land Grant inception and reflects our commitment to take on the environmental challenges that confront us all,” Meehan said in a statement. “Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students. I’m proud of the students and the entire University community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout my professional life.”

Only a handful of schools, including Hampshire College and Syracuse University, have pledged to fully divest from fossil fuels.

Skeptics say divestment is only a symbolic move that will hurt universities' endowments, and won't affect climate change.

Earlier: Divestment Is More Difficult Than Most Think

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