Students Hold “Divestival” Rally to Urge University Divestment

In a rally organized by the Divest UChicago coalition, students protested UChicago’s investment in fossil fuels and advocated for greater transparency from the University regarding its endowment.


Naina Purushothaman

Students calling for the University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels at “Divestival” on April 21, 2023.

By Naina Purushothaman

Divest UChicago, a coalition of the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative (PSI) and the Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF), held a rally demanding the University divest its endowment from fossil fuels on April 21. The coalition also called on the University to make its investment decisions transparent and to include students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members in the process of determining how the University’s endowment is invested.

The rally, called “Divestival,” was attended by over 200 protestors, according to a statement to The Maroon from EJTF after the event. It began on the Main Quad and continued to Regenstein Library. Throughout the two-hour march, protestors played drums and chanted, “We won’t rest till you divest” and “People and planet over profit.”

At the end of the rally’s set route, attendees gathered on the Main Quad to enjoy an outdoor concert, featuring several student bands and performers like the Dirt Red Brass Band, Puddlejumper, Directrix, Aag, and Koong.

The opening speaker at the rally said through a speakerphone, “How could I continue to support an institution that actively supports the destruction of our world? We will not fund displacement. We will not fund gentrification. We will not fund climate change.”

According to a press release sent out before the rally, Divest UChicago’s primary goal is to follow the example of peer institutions such as Harvard University and Columbia University, as well as the City of Chicago, in divesting from fossil fuels.

In its decision to invest in fossil fuels, the University has historically invoked the 1967 Kalven report, which was written by a faculty committee and states the school’s commitment to political neutrality.

In a statement to The Maroon, Associate Director for Public Affairs Gerald McSwiggan said, “The University’s investment team performs thorough due diligence to ensure that the funds in which it invests, and their managers, have no history of illegal behavior and have a strong track record of meeting the professional norms of their business.”

McSwiggan also commented on the University’s environmental commitments in the statement, writing, “The University continues to focus on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goal set in 2020 of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, by increasing renewable energy procurement and implementing energy conservation projects. UChicago was one of only two universities named by the US EPA as a 2023 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence in energy management.”

The statement from EJTF organizers after the rally commented on the University’s investment in fossil fuels and said, “These actions not only stand in direct opposition to their previous environmental commitments but also demonstrate a lack of care for and accountability to the University community, particularly Black and Brown neighbors on the South Side who will be disproportionately impacted by climate change.”

The event garnered an additional 100 signatures for Divest UChicago’s petition, reaching almost 1,700 signatures as of April 24.

“We will use this [Divestival] to mobilize our campaign throughout the quarter and know we have placed significant pressure on the University,” an EJTF organizer said in an email after the rally.