The Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa says it is tough to quit fossil fuels, a decades-long investment, some of which comes from a budget of a $9.6 million investment portfolio.

It is unclear how much money the student government has spent on oil, coal and gas companies. 

There were past efforts to pass a resolution to stop the investment, but it failed last semester. Currently, there is nothing proposed.

Raiyan Rafid, vice president of ASUH, said the resolution didn’t pass because there is “already a lot invested” in fossil fuels.

“We can’t pull out the money all of a sudden,” he said of the decision at that time. “There are board policies in place that doesn’t allow us to do that.”

ASUH stated their commitment to “being both financially responsible and sustainable.”

The current 107th Senate's top priority is sustainability, according to Rafid.

“This Senate, we are also taking fossil fuel divestment seriously,” Rafid said. “As we work with our financial adviser to align our investment goal with our priorities, it is important to realize that everything is a process and change takes time in order to ensure success.” 

Challenges the student government face are “figuring out how to divest” and “what exactly divesting from fossil fuels actually means.” That’s according to Senator-At-Large Micah Leval, who said that ASUH’s investment portfolio is made of index funds that covers various investments in industries. 

“It is difficult to foresee the potential impacts that divestment from fossil fuels would have on the portfolio,” Leval said in an email. “This would also depend on what the ASUH decides to invest in lieu of fossil fuels, and how positive the return on investment these equities would be.”

The student leaders do not have any managerial control of the companies they invest in; it’s their financial adviser, Graystone Consulting.

Each semester a $5 ASUH fee is added to every student’s tuition, making up 21% of the ASUH 2020 budget. The other 79% of the budget comes from the stock portfolio as stated in Senate Act 01-20. 

The money is invested in a broad portfolio containing some fossil fuel companies such as Shell, Chevron and others, according to Regent Randolph Moore, who stated during an Oct. 17 BOR meeting that ASUH’s intends to continue investing.

In 2015, the Board of Regents voted to change its own investment policies to divest from fossil fuels. 

According to a May 2015 Board of Regents document made by the Sustainability Task Force, “As of Dec. 31, 2014 the approximately $66 million university endowment fund included investments in energy companies.”

Contrary to the Board of Regents, the ASUH Senate Resolution 01-15 made in 2015 resolved that the 102nd ASUH senate supports “not limiting investments in legally tradable stocks and bonds.”