The Society of Jesus — the Jesuits –is the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, and at colleges and universities around the world,Â they teach students with a focus on service, specifically to the poor, sick and others in need. Here in West Virginia, the folks at Wheeling Jesuit University have focused on things like improving mine safety and helping coalfield residents get a fair shake when dealing with the coal industry and the government agencies that regulate it.
Last week, there was an interesting coal-related development out of Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school located in California’s Silicon Valley. Apparently, some students there heard about and saw the effects of mountaintop removal. They didn’t like it, and successfully urged the university to divest itself of some Massey Energy Co. stock.
Here’s what the university’s president, Michael Engh,S.J., (pictured above) said in his State of the University address on Feb. 23:
Presidents receive many kinds of letters. They address a wide range of issues, and an early one caught me eye. Two students, Douglas Wheeler and Julia Mock, wrote to protest the universityâ€™s investment in a company noted for environmental degradation. Massey Energy mines coal through a process of mountain top removal, a process witnessed by the students during an immersion trip to Appalachia. In my inquiries I learned from the president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia that, yes, Massey Energy causes widespread damage to the environment in that state. This was corroborated by the research of a student intern in Environmental Studies. From our Finance Office I learned that the University did hold a small amount of stock in the company. This investment had been made unknowingly and it contradicted our ethical guidelines for investment. Once aware of this error, we divested. I thank the Finance Office staff, and the students, for such environmental responsibility.
And here’s the video: