Earlier this week, Oxford University voted to defer a decision on whether it would divest its funds from the fossil fuels industry. As a result, students and alumni occupied an administrative building on campus in protest, The Guardian reported.
Oxford’s student union called on the university last October to stop investing in coal and tar-sands companies. After months of consideration, the university decided to do nothing, saying,
“Last October’s Oxford university student union resolution has raised an important and multi-faceted matter which requires thorough consideration. The university council had a good discussion of the issues and agreed to consider the matter further at a future meeting.”
Students and alumni alike said they were “disappointed” in the school’s decision, or lack thereof.
“Avoidance of divestment by the University will not slow our campaign or indeed the pressing need for meaningful action on the climate crisis,” said student campaigner Ellen Gibson.
Alumnus and solar energy entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett doesn’t buy Oxford’s claim of needing more time to consider their decision; he says the university is scared.
“It fears offending the energy companies who plough so much, directly and indirectly, into its coffers,” Leggett wrote in a column on Monday. “… every month that goes by, the university risks being on the wrong side of history.”
Leggett even went so far as to say that, in support of the Oxford’s student divestment campaign, he would “give back” his degree if the university voted to keep its £2 billion ($2.9 billion) endowment fund in fossil fuels.
The effort to divest Oxford’s funds mirrors the efforts going on at colleges across America, including Harvard University.
Students there are calling for the school to “immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, immediately divest direct holdings (currently $19.6 million) from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies, [and] divest indirect holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies within 5 years and reinvest in socially responsible funds.”
What Leggett had to say about Oxford applies just as well to every school dealing with the same issue:
“For an academic institution charged with the responsibility of shaping young lives the choice ought to be clear. It doesn’t make sense to train young people to nurture civilisation with one hand while bankrolling the sabotage of it with the other.”