DivestBU announced a petition urging Boston University to divest from fossil fuels at a rally in support of the cause at Marsh Plaza Tuesday. The rally was held before a public forum on climate change adaptation and mitigation hosted by the university’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing.
Among the approximately 40 BU students, faculty and staff members who gathered with DivestBU for the rally, several attendees held signs that read “Divest Now” and “Vote Yes to Divest” while organizers handed out flyers about DivestBU’s proposal. The proposal demands that BU “stop investing its financial holdings from fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas” and acknowledged that more than 50 colleges and universities in the United States have committed to fossil fuel divestment.
Nathan Phillips, a professor of earth and environment in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences and a member of DivestBU, said students should be concerned about fossil fuels due to the “major disruption to the basic operation of the earth system” and climate change that they cause.
In regards to the rally, Phillips said he is inspired by the passion of student groups on campus.
“Students see more clearly what the stakes are than many who have grown accustomed to the status quo,” he said. “Students have been and continue to be the most powerful and visionary leaders on climate action on campus.”
Phillips also spoke at the rally and encouraged students to avoid apathy, cynicism and greed in the fight for divestment.
“You guys are making the big changes,” he said as he addressed the predominantly student attendees at the rally. “The people inside the buildings, they need to look out here and see you, respect you and applaud the difference that you’re making.”
Attendees, accessorized with orange fabric pinned to their clothing to signify support for divestment, marched to the George Sherman Union Conference Auditorium for the forum.
Brielle Dojer, treasurer for BU Students for a Just and Stable Future, said keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground minimizes harm done by climate change.
“The aim of divestment is to stigmatize fossil fuel companies for these actions,” Dojer, a senior in CAS, wrote in an email before the rally. “An institution like BU divesting could be especially powerful because universities are seen as world leaders.”
Dojer said there is a huge push from students to show their support for divestment.
“The main purpose of our rally is to demonstrate to the BU administration, specifically the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, that students at BU support divestment from fossil fuels,” she said.
Student Government President Andrew Cho also spoke at the rally. Cho, a senior in CAS studying environmental analysis and policy, expressed support for fossil fuel divestment and said student groups play an important role in making policy changes.
“We want to be putting our investments into something that is going to be repairing our relationship with the environment, not destroying it,” Cho said at the rally.
Cho also spoke of a student body-wide referendum for BU to divest from fossil fuel voted on by students in the Spring 2015 semester. Seventy five percent of students voted that they are in support of divestment.
“This [referendum] is an amazing statement of values, more so than just saying divestment is a good economic policy,” Cho said.
Several attendees said the rally helped raise awareness about moral issues revolving around fossil fuels.
“Our institution has a moral imperative to not be profiting from the climate crisis,” said Matt Thacker, a sophomore in CAS and a member of DivestBU.
Rachel Eckles, a junior in CAS and a student organizer for DivestBU, said as a renowned higher education institution, BU should do more than just analyze ways to improve the environment.
“We play an influential role in society as a global research institution that hopes to improve the world,” she said. “We can do this through education and research, but we can go the step further through divestment.”
Lauren Cabrera, a sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she is concerned about BU’s message regarding sustainability.
“I walk around BU and see signs everywhere like ‘Go Green’ and other sustainability efforts. Then I hear that we’re investing part of our endowment in fossil fuels,” she said. “I just find it morally contradicting, it’s defeating the purpose of all these programs.”
Cabrera, however, said she is hopeful students can foster a change.
“There is a threshold for climate change and we are on the peak right now,” she said. “This is our future, we are the next generation … and we want to make a difference.”