June 4, 2013

SFCC plans future after referendum

After students  voted in support of its referendum for divestment, Stop Funding Climate Change (SFCC), the primary student group behind the referendum, is authoring a proposal providing more detail on divestment in the hopes that it will be presented to the administration and the Board of Trustees in the fall.

SFCC members hope that the proposal, to be written during the summer, will be considered seriously by the University and the Board of Trustees as a guideline for how divestment can be accomplished. According to SFCC President Paul Kim, the proposal will contain an argument about why the University should divest, research on the impact of divestment, and a response to concerns about the impact of divestment on the University’s endowment.

At a Student Government Cabinet meeting on May 7, President Zimmer told students in an informal Q&A session that he wanted to see a more concrete argument made in favor of divestment before the administration considered the issue, according to a student present at the meeting who did not wish to be named because the meeting was off-the-record. SFCC is authoring the proposal partly in response to President Zimmer’s concerns, although they have not had any formal communication with the administration or the Board of Trustees.

Campaigners for divestment face an uphill battle because, historically, the University has not heeded campaigns urging the administration to divest from controversial businesses. The University did not divest from companies engaged in business with the Sudanese government in 2007 during the genocide in Darfur or from South Africa during apartheid rule in the 1980s. In explaining these decisions, the administration has cited the Kalven Report, a 1967 document espousing the doctrine that the University should remain politically neutral to foster academic freedom.

In addition to authoring the proposal, SFCC is planning a vigil in Bartlett Quad this Thursday at 4:45 p.m. in order to raise awareness about climate change. Students will light 400 candles to call attention to the fact that that the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million (ppm), surpassing the 350 ppm most scientists say is safe for human life.

SFCC’s plans for fall quarter includes continued education for students on the issue of climate change and continued student mobilization in support of divestment.

“Just because [divestment] is a good idea and it’s something students are behind doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen at the University. We want to show that student support for this issue is not going away,” Kim said.

The climate change referendum on this year’s SG ballot read “Should the University shift its investment strategy to account for the environmental impact of oil, gas, and coal used by the companies it invests in?” It received the support of 2,183 students, or 70 percent of those who voted on the issue.