Members of the University of Michigan’s LSA Student Government unanimously voted on a resolution calling on the Board of Regents to permanently freeze fossil fuel investments. The resolution also encouraged the President's Commission on Carbon Neutrality to include fossil fuel divestment as one of their final suggestions to the University administration.
The board announced a temporary freeze on new fossil fuel investments last semester to “study” the University’s investment policy. This move came after lengthy campus activism from the Climate Action Movement calling on the University to divest. CAM, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and University’s chapter of College Democrats and others have questioned why progress hasn’t been made since the freeze was announced.
The University’s Central Student Government passed a resolution in conjunction with other Big 10 student governments in January demanding that the University freeze all of its fossil fuel investments and commit to divestment.
LSA junior Erik Williams sponsored and introduced the resolution because he and his fellow sponsors do not feel as though the University has followed through on their commitment to divestment.
“Despite overwhelming support from the scientific community acknowledging this threat of climate change, the University of Michigan continues to hold on to its investments in fossil fuel companies,” Williams said. “The nature of fossil fuel companies is fundamentally antithetical to the University’s core value of sustainability and the documented actions of fossil fuel companies.”
LSA junior Zackariah Farah, co-sponsor of the resolution, echoed Willams’s statement. He pointed out that divestment of fossil fuels is an issue that has been contested at the University for more years.
“And yet, here we are five years later, after numerous activist movements … all of these things still have not budged,” Farah said.
The movement on campus to totally divest in fossil fuels began in 2013 with the Divest and Invest Campaign, which met with the regents multiple times. CSG and the Faculty Senate passed resolutions in 2015 calling for the creation of an ad hoc committee to investigate divestment of fossil fuels. This led to the 2015 creation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee by University President Mark Schlissel.
After further student activism, Schlissel created the PCCN in February 2019. This commission was met with criticism from student activists who noted that energy companies sat on the commission and the University moved forward in constructing a new power plant.
When the Board of Regents met in December 2019, members of the Climate Action Movement and the One University Coalition from all three of the University’s campuses criticized the body for inaction.
LSA sophomore Max Stoneman, one of the 22 sponsors of the resolution, said it was important that the LSA Student Government gets its recommendations down on paper.
“I think that taking a stance on this issue is just one part of a greater movement, and I’m very excited to see what happens with this,” Stoneman concluded.
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