Student group urges university to cut ties with corporations
THE SANTA CLARA
May 8, 2014
With the help of their recent music video featuring bright-colored vests and socially conscious hip-hop, the Fossil Free SCU divestment movement has gained the attention of the Santa Clara community and beyond.
Fossil Free SCU is a coalition of the GREEN Club and B-LEJIT, two environmental justice groups in the Santa Clara Community Action Program.
In its SCU Fossil Fuel Divestment Statement of Support, the group requests that Santa Clara “immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel extraction companies” and “divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.” They also state that this would help advance the university’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2015.
On April 22, Earth Day, Fossil Free SCU released an online petition addressed to President Michael Engh, S.J., and the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees to compel the university to divest from companies that extract fossil fuels.
The petition states that divesting from such companies will further the Santa Clara mission to “build a more humane, just and sustainable world.”
Divesting entails removing investments of capital from corporations and was first successfully used to protest apartheid in South Africa. The movement against fossil fuel companies is now spreading across the nation — Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and the Santa Clara Valley Water District have already divested.
In January, 17 foundations collectively divested $1.8 billion, and higher education is also contributing. On April 6, Stanford University announced that it would divest from coal companies.
Fossil Free SCU plans to circulate four separate petitions which target students and general community supporters, alumni, faculty and staff. Senior Hannah Rogers, the president of Fossil Free SCU, said, “It has become increasingly clear to me over the year that this is the fight of our generation.”
On April 23, Fossil Free SCU debuted their “Divest It Like It’s Hot” music video in the Benson Memorial Center. Sophomore Roscoe Escobar composed the lyrics as a parody to Snoop Dogg’s well-known “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” The video has received attention from the Huffington Post and has garnered over 10,000 views on YouTube.
According to the Santa Clara Fossil Fuel Statement of Support, the university can “create an avenue for long-term financial stability, remain true to its core values and continue to be a leader among Jesuit universities in sustainable action and social justice.”
Senior Zach Milkis, a volunteer for Fossil Free SCU, said that the movement is playing an advocacy role because climate change impacts the poorest countries, which are least equipped to deal with its effects.
“Those that will inevitably be affected the most are those without a voice to do anything about it,” Milkis said.
Sophomore Sean Reilly, president of GREEN Club, said that there is no target goal for the petition but that a benchmark is roughly 1,500 people, equivalent to the size of one university class. So far, the petition has over 500 signatures.
Because Santa Clara is a private institution, it is not obligated to reveal its endowment sum or investments. Rogers said that their next task will be asking the Board of Trustees to disclose the university’s investment portfolio.
According to Milkis, now that they have support from students, Fossil Free SCU is aiming to capture the attention of the administration.
“I think we just want to let them know that we are not going away and that the pressure is going to stay on,” said Milkis.
Contact Eryn Olson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.