This letter was first printed in the Register Guard on 2/13/2015 in conjunction with Global Divestment Days, a set of coordinated actions around the World including a rally by Johnson Hall February 13th from 3-4 pm. It currently has over 150 signatories. Signatures received after 2/13 will be included in subsequent postings.
Below is the language of the letter:
University of Oregon Senate Votes Unanimously in Support of Fossil Fuel Divestment
On January 14, 2015, the University of Oregon Senate voted unanimously in favor of a student sponsored resolution calling on the University of Oregon Foundation to sell all of its investments in fossil fuel extraction companies within six months. This unanimous statement from the Senate, composed of staff, faculty, students, and officers of the administration, indicates the breadth of support in the campus community for fossil fuel divestment.
That consensus in the campus community is in turn based upon a consensus in the scientific community: that an average increase of 2 degrees Celsius will result ice sheet collapse, negative climate feedback loops, and consequent environmental instability. Physicists and climatologists have indicated that the release of 565 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will bring us to that 2 degree tipping point. Energy corporations already possess fossil fuel holdings sufficient to produce five times that critical amount of CO2. If all of the existing reserves are extracted and combusted, the resulting emissions will cause serious and irreversible impacts upon the planetary ecosystems that underpin human society.
Every investor in these companies, including the University of Oregon Foundation, facilitates and tacitly encourages the rapid extraction and consumption of these reserves, and the identification of still more reserves.
Further financial participation in this destructive cycle is inconsistent with the mission of a public university, created to further long term social interests. As a recent letter from 300 Stanford faculty members to their board of trustees points out the contradiction in such a practice:
“If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future?”
It is important that the University act with integrity and add its moral and intellectual authority to the fight for a stable climate.
The resolution calls on the University of Oregon Foundation to:
Sell its current investments in fossil fuel extraction companies;
Refrain from any future investment in fossil fuel extraction companies;
Create a process for groups to put policy proposals to the Foundation board
Create new transparency and accountability mechanisms
Include students and faculty in setting foundation policy
The resolution also calls on the University of Oregon president to support these requests to the Foundation.
Not surprisingly, students, who will be more affected than their elders by the long term effects of climate change, have been the most active motivating force behind this initiative. In the Spring of last year, students at the University of Oregon voted on a campus wide ballot measure in which 73% of students voted in favor of a resolution supporting divestment. The students then came to the Senate and asked us to support them in their call on the Foundation to Divest. Since that time, students have worked diligently to educate Senate members about the reasons for divestment and the historic nature of their campaign.
Most proponents of divestment point to the campaign to divest from South Africa in the 1980's as a model for how a divestment campaign can be effective at mobilizing public pressure against bad actors. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a respected leader of the movement against Apartheid in South Africa, has called for an anti-apartheid style boycott against the fossil fuel industry.
In the last 5 years the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement has spread rapidly from its birth at Middlebury College in Vermont to over 300 college campuses across the nation. Dozens of universities and faith communities have divested, including Stanford, which recently divested its coal holdings. Oregon has been especially successful in its municipal divestment campaigns, with Multnomah County, Ashland, and our own City of Eugene having divested. We have also seen 400,000 people march in the streets of New York for climate action with satellite events around the nation and world, including here in Eugene, and we have seen the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, run by the descendants of the founder of Standard Oil, divest from fossil fuels.
The Register Guard recently reported that 2014 was the hottest year on record according to recent studies by NOAA and NASA. The time for action is now.
The campus community has now spoken to the University of Oregon Foundation. Please also make your voice heard. Write the Foundation a letter or give them a phone call. Tell them to listen to the students and to follow the City of Eugene's lead. Go to the gofossilfree.org website and sign the University of Oregon divestment petition.
And, if you are a University of Oregon alumnus or donor, when you receive a fundraising call from the University or the UO Foundation, please be sure to ask the caller this question: Have you divested yet?