Michigan Students Take on Divestment Campaigns!
In case you were wondering, MI students are among the thousands nationwide that want to contribute to a moral shift that must take place in order to end the power that fossil fuel companies have to bend policy and politicians to their will. Many MI students have joined up with 350.org’s national campaign to get our local institutions (like campuses) to stop investing their money in fossil fuel companies. By getting university endowments to take their money out of fossil fuels, students hope that this will send a message that the people no longer find it acceptable to fund, or be funded by, corporations that are destroying our climate and planet with little regard for human rights. So far we have campaigns launched at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, with campaigns at several other schools in the works.
Students from both schools have been working hard to find information about their university’s endowments and investments, and build a grassroots base of students, professors, alumni, and community members that stand with them to call on the universities to divest from the fossil fuel companies.
Michigan State University Fossil Free Campaign
From Connor Meston, MSU student
Hello everyone! As you may know, Michigan State University students have made recent headway in their campaign for fossil fuel divestment. In addition to educating students about this issue and campaign, we’ve discovered that MSU has at least 14 million dollars invested in fossil fuels. So, we decided to schedule a Fossil Free Forum for April 4th. Turns out, it was a great success. With over 30 attendees and a great panel of speakers, it was inspirational for all members of Fossil Free and surely a number of the people who attended. In addition, Fossil Free spread the word about divestment to the media, including WKAR Radio, NBC’s WILX TV, Lansing’s City Pulse, and MSU’s State News. And, in line with local tradition, Fossil Free painted The Rock with information about the day’s event. However, this is only half of the story.
About 3 weeks ago, a few members from Fossil Free decided it wasn’t enough to just have a forum on our campaign. We were going to pull the student government in for support. So, Fossil Free wrote up a divestment resolution that was passed in committee only 6 days after it was conceived. A week later, the resolution unanimously passed ASMSU’s general assembly. With this resolution and press coverage, Fossil Free will finally be bringing divestment to the table of MSU’s Board of Trustees. On April 11th, we will know how much the administration is with or against us. Band together my friends! This may be the beginning, but Earth Day will give us an opportunity to make our voices heard. Stay committed and Go Green!
The University of Michigan Divest and Invest Campaign
Students with DivestUM have been working since this past fall to learn more information about the university’s investments, which came to light after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the university. Despite the difficulty for students to access the endowment information, they now know that the university has almost 1 billion dollars invested in fossil fuels out of its total 8 billion dollar endowment (one of the largest endowments in the country). This 1 billion dollars from UM accounts for 5% of the total amount of fossil fuel investments from US universities. Despite UM’s large amount of funding for faculty and research dedicated to sustainability and climate change, they still support the fossil fuel industry with this significant chunk of change from their endowment.
However, students with this campaign have worked tirelessly to unite many student orgs behind this cause (at least 30!) and spread the word to the student body, alumni, and community partners. They’ve already held a successful kick-off event that featured panelists like Bill McKibben and Maria Gunnoe, circulated a petition asking the University to divest, and held a large awareness event on campus.
Although the school year is rapidly coming to a close, they hope to submit a resolution to the Central Student Government sometime very soon, which would solidify the student body’s support of asking the administration to divest. Due to some hard work supporting pro-divestment candidates in student elections, this resolution should pass easily!
Here’s a picture from their recent event outside on UM’s famous diag- each flag represents one million dollars invested in harmful fossil fuels!
Thanks to all of the students who are putting in so much hard work on these campaigns! If we want to see our country, states, and communities take positive steps towards dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to stop fossil fuel industries from using their seemingly limitless $$$ to influence our politics!
You can help by supporting these campaigns- check out MSU Fossil Free on Facebook, and sign UM Divest and Invest’s petition to the administration! (anyone can sign, if you aren’t a student just click the “concerned community member” link)
Divestment doesn’t start and stop on campus, either, click here to learn more about how you can get other institutions like churches and towns to divest as well!