Webinar: Learning from Fossil Free UC's Victory

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

8:30-9:30pm Eastern / 7:30-8:30pm Central / 6:30-7:30pm Mountain / 5:30-6:30pm Pacific

Facilitator: Alyssa

Inspo: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1QlAqPh2xcxkIe2v7J0-yxMPsJfBly2S7qWaAwLYrMZE/edit#slide=id.g454dfd63b3_0_0

Divest Ed Webinar: Learning from Fossil Free UC's Victory

Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Time: 8:30-9:30pm Eastern / 7:30-8:30pm Central / 6:30-7:30pm Mountain / 5:30-6:30pm Pacific

Facilitated by: Alyssa Lee

Sign in! - Name, Campus, Affiliation, Email, Why did you come to this webinar?

  • Nadia Sheppard, NC State University, NCSU Climate Reality Corps Research Executive, nsheppa@ncsu.edu, here to learn more strategies that we can incorporate into our campaign!
  • Anaïs peterson, pitt undergrad, kap185@pitt.edu, here because we’re going to (want to) win by april!!
  • Elly Ren, Emory Hsieh, Lais Santoro from Johns Hopkins University, eren2@jhu.edu, we want to win divestment!!
  • Tomas Ringer-Silva, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, WPI United Leftist Student Association, tringersilva@gmail.com, to figure out what works in this movement
  • Camille Kirk, UC Davis, Office of Sustainability, cmkirk@ucdavis.edu, here to learn about the campaign from a student perspective
  • Erik Smith, Dickinson College undergrad, smitheri@dickinson.edu, trying to get our divestment campaign off the ground!
  • Adam Hansrote, University of Pittsburgh, ajh175@pitt.edu, applying lessons from UC to Pitt for divestment

Sign in! - Name, Campus, Affiliation, Email, Why did you come to this webinar?

Page 1

Sign in! - Name, Campus, Affiliation, Email, Why did you come to this webinar?

  • Billy Fish, Reed College, Student Body Senator and GPSEN member, wfish@reed.edu, Have been involved in the Reed divest movement (faculty/sustainability committee are currently coming up with arguments to divest, protests have been going on for a year or so) and I have also spoken with students at PCC and PSU about combining efforts. I am hear for advice and would love any information you can send my way! Most interested in addressing arguments that college can’t divest because it must remain “politically neutral.”

Sign in! - Name, Campus, Affiliation, Email, Why did you come to this webinar?

Page 2

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  • [5 min] Logistics and Agenda
  • [5 min] Introducing our Panelists
  • [10 min] Q1: About the Victory
  • [15 min] Q2: History and Lessons from the Campaign
  • [20 min] Pair Shares and Q&A
  • [5 min] Evaluation & Next Steps

Introducing our Panelists

Our Panelists

  • Sydney Quynn - she/her - UC Santa Cruz ‘20, Sociology and Community Studies
  • Sarah Bancroft - she/her - Current UC Berkeley junior, major: society and environment
  • Emily Williams - she/her - UC Santa Barbara: B.S. 2013, Environmental Studies ; PhD 2021, Geography, got involved in 2012
  • Laurel Levin - she/her - UC Santa Cruz ‘19 Community Studies and Environmental Studies

Panel Question #1

About the Victory

  • What did the campaign win?
  • What did the UCs commit to do?
  • How did that happen?
  • What were the (immediate) events that lead to this?


It took a while

About the victory - First thoughts


  • Op-ed outlined the financial motivation for the divestment despite our campaigns focus on moral/political reasons for divestment
    • This isn’t surprising (although frustrating) given their titles/roles managing the pension/endowment
  • Therefore… it’s our job to frame this as 1. Our win, talk about our efforts 2. Center divestment around climate justice


Academic Senate resolution

  • Explain what academic senates are (body of faculty), what they do
  • However, senates only have so much power as to what they can change… What the resolution/memorial process is

What happened

  • This is something students attempted to do years ago
  • April we discovered the process had been initiated. Explain what would follow
  • During this time we formed a coalition with faculty across the UCs
    • Strategy, better understand the process, get info from each campus


  • 10 campuses across the UC system; UC divested their *central* (aka UC-wide) endowment and faculty pension funds. Endowment is already full divested. We’re talking about moving something on the order of $3B(?).
  • This happened b/c of student organizing. Was really a 6+ year campaign - tons of pressure from students (first and foremost), faculty, staff (esp. Office of sustainability), and alums, and CHANCELLORS. The most recent factor was the UC-wide faculty vote (77% of UC faculty in favor). Investment office would not have done it w/o students.
  • Need to win the narrative / story.


  • UC Board of Regents & Investment office jointly announced their intention to divest from fossil fuel industry
  • Both endowment fund and pension fund
  • “But not for the reasons you think” - financial motivations
  • Academic Senate resolution in the immediate lead-up, long student-led campaign that prompted this

About the Victory - Share-out

  • Sydney (student at UC Santa Cruz): Biggest thing that happened in lead-up to the victory was the Faculty Senate Resolution. Can be replicated at any college! All colleges have a Faculty or Academic Senate. They are a body that can vote on issues pertaining to the university, so they have some power (not to divest) - but they can introduce a ‘Memorial’ or ‘Resolution’ saying that they wanted the Board to divest from fossil fuels.
    • In the past, the faculty had tried to do this but we couldn’t get it all the way. Complicated process.
    • We had heard in April that a faculty member in San Francisco had introduced a Faculty Memorial on his campus, which meant it would be sent to the other 9 campuses in the system for those Academic Senates to vote on. If 3 of the 10 campuses approved the memorial, then it would rise to another level wherein ALL the faculty at all 10 campuses could vote on whether or not they wanted the UCs to divest from fossil fuels.
    • In June, all the faculty voted on this memorial. 76% of faculty across all the UCs votes YES to Divest which was amazing! During this time, we were working closely with the faculty. We had weekly zoom meetings, we talked strategy, we had contacts on every campus so we could understand what was going on on that campus.
    • After the vote, it went to the Regents (aka the UC Board of Trustees). From there, the Regents would be able to do what they wanted.
    • There was a Regents meeting (aka Board meeting) in July. The UC CIO (Chief Investments Officer) said they wanted to divest but not on any timeline. and then in September, they released the op ed saying they would divest. (also did not name any timeline there)

About the Victory - Share-out

  • Sarah (student at UC Berkeley): In September, seemingly out of the blue, the UCs announced they would be divesting not just endowment but also the pension funds (much bigger chunk of money - $70 billion).
    • They said that by the end of September, they would divest the endowment - We have confirmed that the endowment is now fossil free!
    • But the oped was overly focused on divesting for only the financial reasons.
  • Laurel: It was frustrating that they only focused on the financial reasons. It makes sense because it is their job and we know that they don’t want to admit the power of students and faculty. And it doesn’t mean that our campaign wasn’t powerful. We also know they don’t want to show that student power works because that might open the gate for other divestment campaigns.
    • Really this win is about the power of organizing and about climate justice.
  • Emily: Divesting is about telling the story
    • All schools are going to divest. It’s about when.
    • Be ready as soon as the university tries to take that story away from you to reclaim it.

Opinion: UC investments are going fossil free. But not exactly for the reasons you may think
by Jagdeep Bachher (UC Chief Investment Officer) and Richard Sherman (UC Regent)

“Despite their best efforts, the Board of Regents and Mr. Bachher cannot ignore the moral and political implications of this decisive action. ... The moral imperative of divestment is inherent in the fossil fuel industry’s targeting of and the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change on marginalized communities, including but not limited to people of color, people who are low-income, and people living in the Global South. The UC, as an institution of power, cannot ignore this moral imperative.”

“But the work is far from over. This is a climate emergency and we cannot claim a true victory at the UC until the money we’ve moved out of the extractive fossil fuel economy is reinvested in a regenerative, restorative, and just economy. Communities from Richmond, California, to Jackson, Mississippi, to Black Mesa in the Navajo Nation, are leading the way with solutions that decentralize, democratize, decolonize and decarbonize our energy systems. The UC divested from fossil fuels saying it wanted to reinvest in climate solutions and energy transitions. It is up to us to ensure that these are investments in just climate solutions and a just energy transition.”

Dear Regents
by John Foran (UCSB Faculty) in Resilience

“In 1986 the Regents voted to divest all $3.1 billion of its South African-based investments because South African apartheid was deemed morally unacceptable ... Fossil fuel extraction already has exposed communities world-wide to illness and death, and we ask you to take the same clear and principled stand once again.”

The University of California has finally divested from fossil fuels by Theo LeQuesne and Emily Williams (UCSB Students) in The Nation

“Also during this time, concentrations of carbon dioxide broke 400 parts-per-million (safe levels being below 350). During this time, former California governor Jerry Brown had overseen permitting of 21,000 new oil wells polluting communities up and down the state. And during this time, California suffered record-breaking, devastating fires and drought - which were intensified and fueled by climate change. Yet even through all this, the Regents and CIO continued to stall. If it were merely a financial decision, the UC would have divested years ago.”

“‘[The Board of Regents] making that decision was really the result of years of students and faculty and alums, finally chancellors getting on board, really advocating for this,’ [Emily WIlliams] said. ‘They wouldn’t necessarily have even given this a look had the campaign not have advocated for it so strongly.’”

Panel Question #2

History and Lessons from the Campaign

  • Talk about the history of the campaign.
  • What were key strategies that were important?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What were other successes?


It took a while

History and lessons - First thoughts


Inside vs. Outside Strategy!’

Inside (working the “system”) what worked:

  • meeting/presenting at the Committee on Investments meeting
  • Meeting with the Chief Investment officer multiple times
  • Building faculty support (over the course of many years) to push for Academic Senate

Outside (building public pressure/ shifting the narrative on divestment)

  • Art installations!/ protests on campus + in front of Regents offices
  • Coalitions
  • Teach ins!

Inside your campaign: bonding, trainings


  • Sustained pressure!!!
    • It may not feel like you’re winning, but keep going
  • Importance of collaboration with faculty and other student groups
    • We all have different skills/access to different information.
      • Faculty- more institutional knowledge
      • Students- direct action and organizing skills

Emily: -meet with your university decision makers first - you never know if you don’t ask.

- once you escalate you can’t deescalate. But be sure to escalate if it’s warranted (we had a 72-sit in toward the end of the campaign)

-this is about building a long-term movement: build coalitions, different affiliations

-coming together statewide: retreats, regents meetings, calls

-play the inside-outside game: go to meetings, bring research (facts don’t win, but they don’t hurt), testify in hearings. And take over meetings, have rallies, do sit-ins. Ensure they know everyone is watching, but keep the channels open with decision-makers.


  • Coalition building: most successful was with faculty via academic senate resolution
    • Something promising that we sort of ran out of time for: coalition building with sustainability groups on campus
    • Especially with marginalized/PoC communities on campus if we’re talking about true climate justice
  • Consistency - UCB showed up at pretty much every UCSF regents meeting for at least the past 3 years
  • Lean / flow with the momentum as it comes, when there’s not a lot of momentum among students get meetings with admin

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Laurel (recent alum of UC Santa Cruz): 3 big things come to mind:
    • 1. Inside Strategy - playing the system
      • Examples: Presenting to the Committee on Investments. Gives them chance to actually talk with us. We also met with the CIO many times over the years. But this can’t just happen alone. It also plays to certain people’s strengths and privileges. So… outside strategy is also needed!
    • 2. Outside Strategy - shifting public narrative and consciousness, activating students
      • Lots of rallies, protests, protests at Regents meetings.
      • Shift the narrative on what divestment actually is.
    • 3. Invest on the internal team - invest in training, bonding
      • We’d go on hikes!

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Emily (UC Santa Barbara undergrad now PhD student)
    • At times, we did a lot more Inside vs. Outside.
    • Remember that Inside is what the university wants us to do. Speaking at their meetings. Doing research. I was surprised how effective research would be and coming up with reports.
    • BUT they won’t listen to you if you do the Inside on its own.
    • So Inside Game is to get in the room, but you need the Outside Strategy to force them to actually meet with the people to meet with.
    • I really believe it took 1,000 people to get the university to divest over its 6 years as a campaign. Including students, lots of faculty, lots of alumni (withholding donations from university).
    • My opinion: Very important to start with the Inside Game. you never know what the university will give you if you don’t ask. We’d do a big rally, and realize they may have just given us what we wanted if we had asked, such as information.
    • Keep in mind that when you escalate, you can’t de-escalate.
    • Students are really excited about escalation so keep that in mind!

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Sarah (student at UC Berkeley): Coalition building
    • Most obvious was coalition building with Faculty. Faculty do technically have more power at the university, and they are taken more seriously by other people in power. Administrators know that students cycle in/out, but lot of faculty will be there for a long time. Getting faculty on board makes your campaign stronger and also makes it last longer, which was really helpful.
    • Something we planned to do (before we won) was getting involved and forming connections with other communities on campus. At UC Berkeley, we have a thriving environmental undergrad student community. Fossil Free Cal were rogue for a while and didn’t cultivate relationships with other orgs on campus. That would’ve helped us in terms of Outside Game.
    • If we are serious about climate justice being the central organizing framework, doing the work/outreach to build relationships with marginalized communities and communities of color is really important. In 2015/16, we partnered with Native Coalition on DAPL, which was really successful.

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Consistency was also really important, especially in a time of contraction with fewer people. We were lucky that we could take public transit to the UC Regents meetings. We made public comments at each of those meetings. Even though it was just a small group of us, the consistency was really important. So if you’re hitting a wall with your student organizing, consistency can help.

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Sydney (student at UC Santa Cruz):
    • I was very involved with working with faculty. It’s really important to know what faculty on your campus are doing. The faculty at SF introduced the memorial and we didn’t know about it! It’s possible the faculty are wanting to do something. Faculty also have more institutional knowledge.
    • The importance of sustained pressure. Last spring, a few of us were on the webinar that Middlebury had [about their victory in January 2019]. Remember thinking “wow, I don’t know if we can get to that.”It feels like you’re losing and losing until all of a sudden, you win! Don’t lose hope! If you feel like you’re in a lull or you’re not gaining traction, keep doing what you’re doing. All that repetition (plus creative new things) does make an impact!
  • Emily: Identifying what other sub-goals you can identify - what other targets
    • At UC Santa Barbara, we staged a 3-day sit-in at the Chancellor’s office, slept over, and actually got them to endorse.

History & Lessons - Share-out

  • Other things we achieved:
    • First year of the campaign (2013), we passed student government resolutions at 6 campuses. Eventually got resolutions at all campuses. Even though not every campus had a super active campaign, it was good to have that show of support at each one.
    • Also got Faculty Resolution in 2013 at UCSB.
    • We ultimately had 4 Chancellors in public support of the campaign. It happened in a fast wave over 2 weeks in 2016 as a result of coordinated student actions.
      • We did a lot of coordinated days of action across the UC campuses
    • 77% of UC faculty
    • Some of the Grad Student Unions - they can also pass!
  • Also had UC-wide retreats once a year, we did monthly calls for a long time, had Fossil Free UC-wide communication efforts like a listserv and text group, etc.

Pair Shares


Background color: #97DCDF

Gif link: https://media.giphy.com/media/xUOxfjsW9fWPqEWouI/giphy.gif

Open Q&A

Question goes here! Double click the post-it notes to start typing.

Have you guys introduced a reinvestment campaign following their decision to divest?

What proportion of the student body or faculty was actively engaged vs passively engaged vs apathetic?

Can you expand on the consequences of escalating too quickly? I’m worried about that happening here…

(Emily: my concern is just whether you can keep the pressure up / keep it escalated at that level)

How do you tell the difference between the university really discussing vs providing organizers with busywork?

How do you discover the contents of your university's investments?

Have a question to ask? Write it in the post-it by double-clicking the center of the post-it. You might click a post-it someone else has clicked. That’s okay!

  • 20:56:03 From Tomas Ringer-Silva : * (Not sure whether I'm supposed to just type this here, but I have a quick question) How do you discover the contents of your university's investments?
    • 20:58:17 From Nadia Sheppard : @Tomas. While we are a public university, it took over 8 months of pressuring the university to get our endowment figures (the information that we have is still extremely vague)
    • 20:58:33 From Nadia Sheppard : (This is for NC State, a far more conservative university)

Q&A (page 1)

  • 21:04:10 From Nadia Sheppard : How did you contact and engage alums?
    • 21:10:50 From Emily Williams : We tried a few ways to engage alums. A biggie was getting recent graduates (people who graduated after the first year of the campaign - they’re now alums!). Also, though, some campus groups (like and environmental or social justice group) will have an alum listserv. We had something for a while called “Donors for Divestment” where they’d donate to this fund which the UC would get $$ if they divested but the $$ would go back to donors if they didn’t.
    • 21:12:57 From Nadia Sheppard : How was the fund created?
    • 21:16:34 From Emily Williams : alum donor fund platform: http://www.giveresponsibly.org/

Q&A (page 1)

  • What proportion of the student body or faculty was actively engaged vs passively engaged vs apathetic?
    • Sydney (UCSC student): When we were reaching out to faculty to ask them to vote on Resolution, we did get a lot of negative responses. We specifically had faculty member from Economics department who was really against divestment. Think of ways to address faculty who are actively opposing. But we really only had a couple responses like that. The vast majority that I engaged with were neutral or positive.
    • Laurel (UCSC alum): In our campaign, we had a steering committee and a base team. The Base team would fluctuate between 3 people and 20 (on the high end). It can be frustrating when the numbers were low. But it’s okay if that really active team is small - can be quality over quantity. Our objectives:
      • Do you know about our campaign in the first place? Getting the name out there and normalized. We gave out orange patches that we saw worn around campus. Most weren’t actually engaged but when it came to something that needed to be voted on, it was recognizable (branding).
      • Same thing could be said for faculty. We have a core of really engaged faculty. We didn’t need 100 highly engaged faculty - need quality core. But need many passive.
    • Emily (UCSB grad student): UCSB did a survey actually of undergrads about positions on divestment and a really big % was in favor (so vast majority at least passively supporting). It seemed like each campus had around 5-10 core really really involved people, and then 20 - 80 sometimes-active allies

Q&A (page 1)

  • How do you tell the difference between the university really discussing vs providing organizers with busywork?
    • Emily: It’s ALWAYS busywork. I know I said do the Inside Game but…
      • There are people who we talked with over the years who did really engage, but they had to stay anonymous because they didn’t want to get in trouble.
      • Be cautious of “committee-izing” - they’ll stick you in a committee. Once it’s in there, there’s nothing to prevent it from getting stuck there and not back out to the actual decision-makers.
      • Going through their entire portfolio and telling them how much money they could have made if they divested - they had staff who could’ve done that.
      • There is something to be said about engaging with decision-makers to show them that you’re better than they are.
      • It was always a strategy choice rather than actually trusting them.

Q&A (page 1)

  • What’s next for the campaign?
    • Berkeley has its own endowment for obscure and political reasons. We have a campaign focused on meeting with them to divest that - more focused on Inside Game. A lot of people interested in emerging climate action movement. We helped organized people for Climate Strike.

Q&A (page 1)


Closing: What’s one thing you’re taking away from this call?

  • Laurel: Have patience and believe in your power!
  • Emily: Invest in training a lot of people to be heavily involved in the campaign, create strategies early and often, and always be willing to throw tactics/ideas out the window to stay responsive to what’s happening, and have fun
  • Sarah: Don’t do it alone! Talk to people, bring new people in, connect and build working and personal relationships with other organizations and faculty. (current students feel free to email me sbancroft@berkeley.edu with questions/to chat :-)
  • Sydney: Divestment is a tactic for climate justice. Our win does not mean our work is done! This is a huge step forward and there is still so much more to do. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. (i.e, collaborate with other social/climate justice groups because our work is interrelated and we need a variety of tactics employed for a just transition).

Closing (page 1)

Write a thought about something you’re taking away from this call!

Include your name + campus

Closing: What’s one thing you’re taking away from this call?

  • Patches!
  • We’ll all win it’s just a matter of when
  • Consistency is critical. Sustained pressure is critical. It feels like you’re losing and your wheels are spinning up until the moment that you win
  • The focus to create a reinvestment plan is a great idea - create optimism and move forward; opportunity for promoting resiliency and justice
  • Just to keep going! We’re escalating and doing our best at our school so we’re hopefl :)

Closing (page 2)

Write a thought about something you’re taking away from this call!

2020 National Escalation

Section 4: Divest Ed’s plans for national escalation in 2020 - Fossil Fuel Divestment Day (F2D2) [5 minutes]

Join Fossil Fuel Divestment Day!

Have your campaign sign the pledge to join F2D2.

And join the F2D2 Facebook event page!

We are building towards Fossil Fuel Divestment Day (“F2D2”) in February 2020, the first coordinated national divestment action since 2017.

Check out the brand new

Fossil Fuel Divestment Day Action Toolkit


divested.betterfutureproject.org/toolkits !!!!!

F2D2 Action Toolkit: divested.betterfutureproject.org/toolkits

F2D2 Action Toolkit: divested.betterfutureproject.org/toolkits

F2D2 Action Toolkit: divested.betterfutureproject.org/toolkits

To join the team coordinating national escalation (otherwise known as the National Escalation Strategy Team, N.E.S.T.) fill out this form!

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