Since he was announced as inaugural dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability in May, Arun Majumdar has met with about 160 students and postdoctoral researchers, individual faculty, and interest groups to better understand their views on the role of the energy industry in funding sustainability research, among other topics. In those discussions, Majumdar heard a range of opinions, from urging the school to eliminate research funding by fossil fuel companies to encouraging the school to engage with everyone who wants to be involved in the energy transition.

Now, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne is creating a committee to consider these and other perspectives in the context of future engagement or disengagement with energy companies. Tessier-Lavigne asked Debra Satz, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and Paul Brest, former dean of Stanford Law School, to co-chair the committee. Tessier-Lavigne will be appointing members, whose names will be announced winter quarter.

“I am deeply grateful to Arun for his extensive listening tour within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, and to the many students and faculty who have shared their thoughts on funding for sustainability research,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “Transitioning to a sustainable global energy system is among the greatest challenges facing the world today. We must consider how to balance the value of broad engagement in this work with legitimate concerns about the ethical standards of our partners. I am thankful to Paul and Debra for agreeing to lead a committee focused on these important issues.”

The group will be charged with assessing current funding from fossil fuel companies, reviewing the approach of other universities, and providing pros and cons of the current approach of accepting these funds and of alternative approaches. The group is also expected to consider a variety of approaches to better understand diverse viewpoints and concerns across the campus, and to engage the Stanford community in thoughtful discourse.

The committee will provide a report of their findings, which will guide university decision-makers in considering any necessary changes to current policies and practices regarding funding from fossil fuel companies.

“I am grateful to all those who have shared their deeply held convictions throughout the summer and fall quarter,” Majumdar said. “I also want to thank those who serve on this committee. Their work will be critical for helping the university navigate the important issue of how to engage with energy companies as we work toward a sustainable energy system.”

In parallel with the committee’s work, Majumdar has said that he will continue to meet with the school community and will report on what he’s learned in the coming months.