January 18, 2013

Students push for climate-concious divestment

Students kicked off a campaign to decrease the University’s carbon footprint on Thursday, recruiting new members to join a national effort to convince universities to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The newly initiated “Stop Funding Climate Change” campaign, which is composed of fewer than 10 students from the College, is the UChicago branch of a national effort with upwards of 200 campuses asking their schools to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The goal of the UChicago campaign, as explained in its current petition, is to convince the University to “immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.”

Due to issues of transparency, the campaign is uncertain as to exactly in which fossil fuel companies the University invests, besides Exxon Mobil and Arch Coal, Inc. According to campaign director and second-year Brendan Leonard, “This is why we want to talk to the University: because they have to be transparent with us.”

The campaign delivered a letter to President Zimmer’s office during reading period of last quarter asking the University to divest. Although Zimmer did not respond to this action, the campaign hopes to escalate its campaign with “banner drops, rallies, [and] pressure-oriented activities addressed to the administration” according to campaign member and fourth-year Sage Gerson.

Environmental studies lecturer Ray Lodato is the first of what the campaign hopes will be many faculty to support the campaign. According to Leonard, he was one of the first to sign the petition last quarter and allowed Gerson to announce the kick-off meeting to Lodato’s Environmental Law class on Tuesday.

In regards to the Kalven Report, a document published in 1967 by a faculty committee stating that the University must remain politically neutral, the campaign is confident that the issue at stake transcends the University’s policy of political neutrality.

“We’ve seen them deploy the Kalven Report very selectively,” said campaign member and second-year Paul Kim. “We think that if the University decides [the campaign] is a pressing issue, the Kalven Report will be less of an issue. We also think this is an issue of direct concern to the University.”