WASHINGTON D.C. — At May 11’s graduation ceremonies for American University’s School of Public Affairs Lisa Jackson, the commencement speaker and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency commended American students for their hard work on their fossil fuel divestment campaign, “I salute this school and it’s students for facing head on the issue of investments in fossil fuels and what that means to your individual futures.”
Following Jackson’s speech, many AU graduates accepted their diploma and shook President Neil Kerwin’s hand while wearing a small green circle on their commencement robes symbolizing their withholding of Alumni donations until American University commits to fossil fuel divestment.
Students at American University are part of a national movement of over 300 universities and institutions looking to divest their endowments from fossil fuel holdings in order to weaken the power of the fossil fuel industry and build the space for political action. American’s divestment campaign demands that the University immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies by putting a negative screen in the university endowment and second, establish an official dialogue with all university community members on divesting the endowment from current holdings in fossil fuel companies within the next five years.
Over the last year, the divestment campaign has had great success building support on campus: 15 different student groups have joined a coalition to push for divestment; 80% of students, over 2000 people, voted in favor of a fossil fuel free endowment; the Student Government unanimously endorsed the campaign, and the Faculty Senate passed a resolution in support of divestment, and more than 100 alumni have pledged not to donate to the endowment until the school divests.
Fossil Free AU hopes that Lisa Jackson’s endorsement will further push the University to change their investment policies. The Board of Trustees meets this upcoming Thursday and Friday to discuss financial policy, and despite repeat requests, Fossil Free AU has not yet been granted an opportunity to present their case. The group will be holding a Community Board Meeting on Friday Morning, May 17th at 10am on the Main Quad, where they will present the case for divestment to the campus community.
Here is the video from the speech – the divestment shout out comes at 11:48