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Divest BU demands transparency, quick action in a protest following BU’s divestment announcement

Divest BU protest
Divest BU members in Marsh Plaza Oct. 15 demanding further action from Boston University President Robert Brown following the University’s termination of the investment of their endowment in fossil fuels last month. AMANDA CUCCINIELLO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Divest BU — an organization of Boston University students, faculty and staff united against fossil fuel divestment — held a protest at Marsh Plaza Oct. 15 in response to BU President Robert Brown’s Sept. 23 email announcing the University will “end the investment of our endowment in fossil fuels.”

At the protest, the club asked the University to increase transparency on the process and funding, expedite the timeline and create a social impact fund. Close to a dozen people attended. 

In the email, President Brown wrote the University Investment Office will use its discretion to determine how soon BU can completely remove fossil fuel investment and should be allowed to invest in technology with minimal connection to fossil fuels during the transition period. 

“We did not think that this was an adequate answer to our demands so basically we were protesting for three things,” said Cora Funke, vice president of Divest BU and a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Funke noted the club has been pushing for divestment for the past nine years and believes BU can expedite the divestment timeline to be complete in “no more than five years.”  

She said the club and greater BU community would appreciate it if the University was more willing to discuss the issue with students as well.  

“[BU has] been really unclear about what goes on with the Board of Trustees and the investment committee,” Funke noted. “We want them to tell us a lot more about what’s going on and also include more students in the decision-making of these committees.”

BU spokesperson Colin Riley declined the request to comment, stating he was not aware of the protest. 

The final demand at the protest included the creation of a University-wide Social Impact Fund to redirect the funds no longer invested in the fossil fuel industry toward green energy instead. 

“A portion of that money would be put towards disadvantaged communities in the Boston area that have been harmed by their investment decisions, historically,” said Funke.

Brown wrote in the email that BU will no longer commit to direct investments in companies with connections to fossil fuels, and instead prioritize investing in fossil-fuel-free products. 

“The actions of the Board of Trustees on investment in fossil fuels are, I believe, a necessary step toward mitigating global warming and the devastating impacts of climate change,” he wrote. 

Talya Havivi, a junior in CAS and member of Divest BU, participated in the Friday protest and said she agreed transparency is an important concern.

“I think the protest was really important to show support from students … [for] pushing our administration to be transparent with where their money is going and where their money is investing in and so we can create the most sustainable campus as possible,” she said.

Havivi said the next step for Divest BU is to push for the formation of a University-wide Climate Action Committee. 

“I imagine it’s a committee of people on the [Board of Trustees], maybe include some student voices or professors from the environmental science department, to continue thinking towards the future and thinking forward about climate action at BU,” she said. 

College of Communication freshman Jo-Wei Lin said they passed by the protest and looked it up afterward, having not known what it was about initially.   

“I’m very proud of BU for making this important decision, and I appreciate Divest BU for making this happen with all their efforts,“ Lin said. “I’m so glad to see that BU has finally made the right choice.”

Funke noted the club did not appreciate Brown’s failure to mention Divest BU’s efforts over the last decade in his announcement. 

“He ignored the fact that Divest BU is the reason this decision was able to be reached,” she said. “[Brown] kind of brushed over the work that’s been done by students for so long.”

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