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
At the end of the semester the Fossil Free AU Campaign got a surprise endorsement – from the Faculty Senate! Here is a statement from Chair Barlow Burke commending our efforts and calling on the Board of Trustees to explore the option of divestment from fossil fuels.
The Faculty Senate endorsed a resolution supporting fossil free and socially responsible investing at AU; the resolution had been considered by the Senate’s Budget and Benefits committee and forwarded to the Executive Committee of the Senate and the full Senate; the Senate’s endorsement came at its meeting today. The endorsement was not of a negative screen or a separate committee, but to the effect that the BOT should initiate its own study of the matter. The Senate felt that it had no authority to dictate such matters to the Board, but that its committee’s resolution was justifiably supported by student research and deserved Senate Support on that account.
We thank Professor Burke and the other 25 members of the Faculty Senate for their support!
After a week of hard, fun, and creative campaigning, 80% of American University students voted in support of divestment from fossil fuel companies. A referendum on the Student Government election ballot asked students if they support calling on the Board of Trustees to divest the endowment from fossil fuels. The Vote Yes to Divest campaign received support from all of the candidates running for student government office, and the results of the vote were met with cheers and a standing ovation.
Less than two weeks after a unanimous vote in support of divestment by the Undergraduate Senate, tonights referendum results solidify the position of AU students as squarely in favor of a fossil free endowment. We are excited to work with the AU administration and Board of Trustees to ensure that our investments reflect our values of sustainability and social responsibility. Thank you to all those who worked on the referendum campaign and voted for a Fossil Free AU.
Today, the fossil fuel divestment movement at American University took a big step forward. Our friends in the Undergraduate Senate voted on two resolutions in support of divestment, and did so with enthusiasm and purpose. The first resolution made it the official policy of AU’s student government to support a negative screen on fossil fuel companies in the endowment, which would freeze all new fossil fuel investments. Student government is the tenth campus organization to officially voice its support for fossil fuel divestment.
SG Senators propose a resolution in support of Fossil Free AU
Fossil Free AU celebrates after the vote!
In addition to calling for a negative screen on fossil fuel investments, the Senate also voted to put a referendum on the upcoming SG ballot, which will allow students to vote on the issue of divestment. This referendum will play a key role in convincing the Board of Trustees to divest AU from fossil fuels, and there will be more information about the vote coming very soon. Thanks to everyone who worked to get us this far, let’s keep up the great work!
What an incredible couple of weeks!
First, the news that Sterling College became the third school to divest from fossil fuel companies. The momentum and energy of the fossil fuel divestment movement is incredible, and we are feeling it here.
Here at AU, we started reaching out to students, faculty, and alumni. Last week, we tabled every day on the quad, collecting signatures for a ballot referendum and photo petitions. At the end of the week, we had close to 300 voter pledge cards which we will use to remind students to vote on the referendum in March, and over 100 beautiful photo petitions. The campaign has also received a number of official endorsements from campus clubs, with more on the way.
Then came the day we had all been waiting for, the gigantic Forward on Climate rally. 50,000 people descended on Washington to demand that President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and take serious steps to address climate change. Over 100 AU students were in attendance, and it was great to see students from other divestment campaigns as well.
Finally, we wrapped up these amazing couple of weeks with a big night. Representatives from Fossil Free AU attended a meet-and-greet with members of the Board of Trustees, explaining the need to divest our endowment from fossil fuels. This was the first time that we were able to directly bring our campaign to the attention of the Board. According to a friendly member of the administration, fossil fuel divestment will definitely be a topic of discussion at this weeks board meeting. After the meet-and-greet, Fossil Free AU hosted a town hall event that drew about 50 people. We heard from students, faculty, and an AU alum who was recently hired as a 350.org organizer.
Support continues to grow for the Fossil Free AU campaign, and we’re looking forward to the work ahead!
Three weeks into the spring semester, the campaign to divest American University’s endowment from fossil fuel companies is in full swing. Students have had several large organizing meetings, bringing together a new coalition of groups and individuals. “Our divestment meetings are drawing a bunch of new students, more than our other events usually do”, said Eco-Sense president Kate Brunette. Fossil Free AU is receiving support from student groups, faculty, and alumni.
Members of the Student Government Undergraduate Senate have introduced two bills that would call on the Board of Trustees to increase endowment transparency, and implement a negative screen to freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies. The campaign was also featured in AU’s campus newspaper, The Eagle, in a story by student reporters and in a letter to the editor written by campaign organizers. Says organizer Stephen Bronskill, “With all the student support and the articles in the Eagle, the campaign is officially up and running!”
On Thursday night, 50 AU students got together to kick off their campaign to divest the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies. Students Kate Brunette, Stephen Bronskill, Stephen Fredericks, and Thomas Meyer presented information on climate change and the divestment movement before opening up the room for questions and discussion.
Designed to bring together a broad group of students, the event was attended by members of the Student Worker Alliance, College Democrats, Public Relations Student Society, AU United Methodists, Green Eagles, and Eco Sense. The university closes for winter break next week, but students will continue organizing and come back ready to begin the campaign in earnest.
Students at American University have started a campaign to divest the university’s $400 million endowment from fossil fuel companies. Inspired by Bill McKibben’s Do the Math tour, students are organizing in the midst of finals in order to get the campaign off the ground before the spring semester. There will be a larger organizing meeting this Thursday December 6 at 8pm in the Butler Conference room. Please come to get involved in this important and exciting campaign!
Students at American are ready to take on the fossil fuel industry, on campus or in the streets!
Here they are on-stage with Bill McKibben (photo by Sophia Miyoshi)
and leading the march against the Keystone XL pipeline!