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Thursday, June 4, 2020

AS passes another resolution to ask Foundation to divest

Members of the Students for Renewable Energy club and faculty members pose for a photo outside Old Main on Thursday, ​M​ay 28. Faculty members gathered more than 350 signatures asking to divest. //Photo by Jake Tull
Members of the Students for Renewable Energy club and faculty members pose for a photo outside Old Main on Thursday, ​M​ay 28. Faculty members gathered more than 350 signatures asking to divest. //Photo by Jake Tull

One day after the Western Associated Students Board voted in favor of the Students for Renewable Energy’s [SRE] fossil fuel divestment resolution, a group of 20 faculty, staff and students attempted to deliver a letter to Bruce Shepard asking the university and the Western Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.

The letter included 368 signatures from Western administrators, faculty and staff who supported the request, which is 36 percent of total Western employees.  The AS board voted 6-0-0 for the resolution, with VP for activities Giselle Alcantar Soto absent.

Western President Bruce Shepard was not in the office, so SRE adviser and Western instructor Jill MacIntyre Witt    delivered the letter to Paul Dunn, senior executive assistant to the president, who told the group he would make sure Shepard got the letter, and thanked the group for bringing the issue forward.

“This is what education is all about, thinking hard about these controversial and tough issues and making your voices heard,” Dunn said.

The group then delivered another copy of the letter to Mark Brovak, chief operations officer for university advancement in the Western Foundation office. Brovak said while he couldn’t speak for the Foundation board, he appreciated the passion and great interest in the issue of divestment.

“I think the hope was to be heard and I think we were heard,” MacIntyre Witt said. “There’s a lot more faculty and staff support of the student’s efforts here on campus.”

The AS board passed the resolution unanimously on Wednesday, May 27.

AS President Annika Wolters, one of the six AS board members who voted unanimously to support the SRE’s divestment resolution, said it was frustrating to see the work of students fail because of a decision by the administration.

“When the decision not to divest came out, it was paired with this message that what you’re asking for isn’t really effective and that there are more effective solutions,” Wolters said. “But we weren’t given any sort of context or guidelines as to what that solution would have been.”

Wolters also said while she won’t be the AS president next year, she wants to see a partnership between the AS and the Western Foundation if the Foundation turns down the resolution again this year.

This is the second time the AS asked the Foundation to divest, after the Foundation board rejected the proposal on September 9, 2014, according to the Foundation’s finding and recommendation memo. AS Vice president for student life Zach Dugovich said the AS feels the seriousness of climate changes makes the proposal important enough to submit for a second time.

“We’re not here for economic gain, ” Dugovich said. “There are other companies and other ways to get money for scholarships.”

Western senior and SRE President Marika Weber said the situation surrounding the divestment issue this year is different than last year.

“There have been huge drives on our campus as well as around the world and other campuses, and now even a country has divested,” she said, referring to Norway’s recent decision to divest from fossil fuels.

Western junior and SRE member Galen Herz said the next step is to get more publicity for the movement. This will include a 24-hour sit-in and study party in Old Main on Wednesday, June 3, which Herz said will send a strong message in favor of divestment.

“The administration has not listened to the students,” Herz said. “They didn’t listen to the 86 percent of students who voted for it in the 2013 AS elections, this year the Foundation hasn’t listened, and we are sitting in to have our voices heard.”

During the 2013 AS elections, 1,694 students voted in favor of divestment, which was 86 percent of the students who voted.

The AS board asked the Western Foundation Office to end all further investment in fossil fuels by the end of 2014, and to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years, according to the resolution.

The foundation board members suggested they create a fund dedicated to climate change issues that donors could invest in, according to a foundation memo.

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