DU Students Will Keep Fighting for Divestment

Students painted the “Free Speech Wall” on campus in response to the University’s announcement to not divest

 

On Tuesday, January 24th, 2017, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp and the Board of Trustees at the University of Denver (DU) announced that the University will not pursue fossil fuel divestment as a method to combat climate change. As student leaders at DU, we are disappointed by their lack of leadership and inability to recognize that inaction in the face of climate crisis is complicity. We declare that this decision is a milestone in the story of divestment at DU and that we will continue to demand full fossil fuel divestment.

Chancellor Chopp and the DU Board of Trustees have, instead of divestment, committed to pursuing other efforts to combat climate change at DU. Most importantly, DU will contribute $5 million to a revolving fund that will be used for sustainability projects on campus, which is a significant and necessary step forward. However, setting aside funds for campus sustainability efforts while continuing to profit from investment in oil, gas, and coal is unacceptable. On the part of Chancellor Chopp and the Board, the decision not to divest shows a willful misunderstanding of the severity of the climate crisis and the role DU must play in combating it. DU must remove its support from this destructive industry.

Tuesday’s decision came after more than three years of campaigning by student leaders at DU, more than 1700 petition signatures, engagement from hundreds of students at rallies and marches on and off campus, an endorsement from the DU Faculty Senate, and four months of hearings by the Board of Trustees Task Force on Divestment. Students have led this campaign from the beginning and propelled divestment to the highest decision-making board at the University because as young people, we know that our futures are at stake. Chancellor Chopp commends us for giving life to sustainability efforts on campus, but her decision to reject divestment is also a choice to stand with an elite and destructive industry, rather than on the sides of students and faculty, who she is meant to serve.

As youth who are facing a future defined by the devastating effects of climate change, we will keep fighting for divestment for the exact same reasons we started this campaign in 2013. We accept the scientific consensus that climate change is real, it is human-caused, and it is already having catastrophic effects on our society, economy, and well-being. It is unconscionable for our institutions of higher education to invest in an industry that is putting our generation at risk. The wealthiest nations fuel climate change while marginalized peoples who have contributed least to the problem feel its burdens the heaviest. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has already committed to burning more than five times more carbon than our climate can safely handle and has knowingly hidden and denied climate science for decades. The sheer magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis forces us to reexamine all parts of our personal and collective responsibility to fight the injustices of the fossil fuel industry. By committing further support to this industry, Chancellor Chopp and the University of Denver accept and maintain their complicity in this crisis.

Our conviction to fight has been galvanized further by recent events. On the day that Chancellor Chopp and the Board of Trustees rejected divestment, President Donald Trump also made clear his plans for our climate and our communities by signing executive orders to advance the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. We are now living under a president who considers climate change to be a negligible concern and has stacked his cabinet with climate deniers and fossil fuel executives. We will keep fighting for divestment with the understanding that under President Trump, the empowerment of the fossil fuel industry will lead to violence against our climate that will be felt by future generations in decades to come. We hold a vision of a just and sustainable world that we will not give up.

In the coming months, we draw from the experiences of students at campuses across the country who came together after their administrations refused divestment, and in many cases, won their campaigns against great odds. Chancellor Chopp and the Board have left us with no choice but to organize the DU community to take further action for divestment. We will call upon our networks of friends, professors, staff, administrators, alumni, and donors to demand that DU stand with students and for a just and sustainable world. Sign the pledge to act to join us here.

In the face of climate change and a federal administration that refuses to accept its reality, we invite you to stand with DU students on the right side of history in demanding that the University of Denver divest from fossil fuels.

Divest DU

The final report by the Board of Trustees Task Force on Divestment can be viewed here along with the Board’s Statement of Principles on Climate Change, Divestment and Sustainability.

125+ walk out at University of Denver to reject Trump’s climate denial

Students and faculty walked out of class for fossil fuel divestment, to reject Trump’s climate policies

On January

Yesterday, more than 125 students and faculty walked out on the University of Denver campus to support fossil fuel divestment and oppose the climate change denialism of President Trump and his new administration. Members of the DU community walked out to call on Chancellor Chopp and the Board of Trustees to divest from a reckless industry and choose to protect all of our futures.

The walkout comes at a crucial moment for Divest DU. After years of campaigning by Divest DU, the DU Board of Trustees formed a task force to investigate divestment last spring. The task force concluded its investigation in October, and on Friday, January 20, the full Board met to discuss the task force’s findings and vote on divestment. The Board is expected to announce its decision later this week.

“The divestment movement is part of a broader political push for climate justice, which recognizes the complex intertwining nature of systems of oppression,” said Lori Scott, Coalition Coordinator for Divest DU. “Rather than simply fighting climate change, we aim to use our campaign to fight for social justice and a sustainable future for all beings.”

Divest DU joined more than 40 other campuses across the country in walking out, as coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network. More than 1,000 students walked out in the nation’s first and largest youth-led mobilization under Trump’s presidency.

“Our campaign is three years old and we have engaged more than 1,500 in this conversation through our petition alone,” said Kengo Nagaoka, Institutional Coordinator for Divest DU. “Now we are in the week when the Board will announce their decision. We are expecting Chancellor Chopp and our Board to lead with us on climate action.”

#DivestDecember

This month is #DivestDecember! Everyday in December we will be posting on Facebook. We want to let our supporters know why divestment is so important. Our posts will be facts about climate change, our campaign, sustainable hacks, and everything in between! Keep up to date with why we should divest this December with our #DivesDecember posts everyday on Facebook!

 

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BOT Task Force Concludes Hearings

It’s our future. It’s our fight. And we haven’t backed down.

One week ago, four of Divest DU’s student leaders, Callyn Gonzalez, Lily Gross, Carly LeRoy, and Lori Scott, presented our case to the Board of Trustee’s Investigative Task Force on Divestment. This Task Force, consisting of Dr. Jim Griesemer (chair of Task Force), Cappy Shopneck, and Craig Harrison, has been meeting throughout the summer to hear perspectives on the issue of divestment, and the last meeting was the 6th of October. This was our biggest moment so far to convince the Task Force that they should recommend full fossil fuel divestment to the Board when they deliver their report in January.

In addition to presenting them with personal narratives, connecting the issue of climate change to their lives and beliefs, explaining the new and terrifying science, and emphasizing the theme of social justice, Divest DU general team members also got to have their say. More than thirty supporters showed up, signs in hand, to demonstrate student support for divestment. Ten of those people got up in front of the Task Force to explain who they are and why they support this movement. Additionally, throughout the week we had community members sign a giant banner saying “I am a Pioneer and I Support Divestment” with the reasons they’re behind us! At the end of the presentation we gave this banner to the Task Force to show them that we, as Pioneers, are proud to be working to change this university and the world, and they too can be a part of our movement.

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Photo petition created during the days of October 3-5 before the presentation

If you want to see our presentation for yourself, head on over to the Task Force portfolio page and click the video from October 6th! We come in about half way through!

Even though we’ve made our case formally, we still have work to do. We will be making moves and making sure the Board knows we are still here, still vocal, and still committed to a full fossil fuel divestment come January. And they should be too!

And that’s where you come in! If you want to be a part of the next steps towards ensuring we win, students, please join us on Wednesdays from 6-7 pm in the JMAC classroom! With you, we are powerful. And we will change the world.

Please email us at divestdu@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

Divest DU 2015-16 Annual Report

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Dear supporter of Divest DU,

We hope that your summer has been off to a great start so far! Attached below is our Annual Report for the 2015-16 academic year.

In it you can find a comprehensive timeline of our progress this past year and our future steps in the year to come. This past year has been an amazing one in moving forward in achieving our goals, and we could not have done it with your help! With that being said, we hope you have a fantastic rest your summer and we look forward to working together again in the fall.

VIEW THE DIVEST DU 2015-16 ANNUAL REPORT

Dear Reader,

Wow. This past year was an incredible step forward for Divest DU and the climate movement. Throughout the 2015-16 academic year, we were constantly inspired by the tremendous outpouring of support for our cause, the amazing individuals who have joined our team, and the student leaders across the globe who have come together in greater numbers and with greater strength than ever to demand climate justice. Students are organizing from the ground-up with ever-increasing intensity and urgency to demand that the institutions we are part of align their investments with their morals and divest from fossil fuels.

This year, DU stepped up to become one of the eight leading campuses in the nation in the fight against climate change. We cannot stress enough that the commitment to a just and sustainable future that our dedicated supporters have demonstrated is the reason our Board of Trustees has opened a path toward fossil fuel divestment by January 2017. Since we founded this campaign in 2014, DU school administrators, faculty, and students alike have been forced to reexamine their roles in this institution and confront their stake in the climate crisis because we have demanded they do so. As we work toward divestment in January, we are committed to encouraging this discussion in more meaningful and deeper ways.

From those of us at Divest DU, we thank you wholeheartedly for your action and invite you to join us again this coming fall to ensure that our university makes history next January. If you are new to our campaign and would like to learn more and get involved, we welcome you to visit our website at divestdu.org, email us at divestdu@gmail.com, and follow us on Facebook for up-to-date news.

In Solidarity,

The Divest DU Core Team:

Danny Brown

Christian Donato

Maddy Gawler

Callyn Gonzalez

Lily Gross

Claire Hassler

Jonah Howards

Carly LeRoy

Kengo Nagaoka

Tina Payne

Lori Scott

Graduated Members:

Dominic Italia

Erin Smith

Nick Stubler

Charlotte Vetter

BOT Task Force Update #1: Transparency

On May 2nd, 2016, the University of Denver Board of Trustees announced that it would commission a special task force on fossil fuel divestment “to consider the full range of issues, explore the approaches taken by other institutions, and consult both with experts and interested parties across campus and beyond” to move forward on divestment. The task force will present its findings and recommendations to the full Board at its January 2017 meeting. The Board will then vote on divestment.

The formation of the task force is the first step that the DU Board of Trustees has taken to engage with the global issue of fossil fuel divestment, and is the result of two and a half years of community organizing by Divest DU. Five student leaders from the Divest DU Core Team presented to the Board on April 14th as upwards of 100 students called the administration to act on climate at a rally outside the meeting space. We recognize the formation of the task force is a direct result of our work to make this issue a priority and the students and faculty who have demanded an appropriate response from the Board of Trustees. Because of this, we feel a strong responsibility to include our supporters in the process. 

On May 20th, Divest DU leaders Kengo Nagaoka, Lori Scott, Nick Stubler, and Danny Brown met for the first time with Task Force members. At the table were Trustees Craig Harrison, Jim Griesemer, Cappy Shopneck, as well as Ed Rowe from the Office of the Chancellor and Kait Willing, now the acting president of the Faculty Senate. 

Jim Griesemer and Cappy Shopneck both served on the University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Higher Education in 2014, with Griesemer as Chair. They expressed their enthusiasm about the process the Task Force is taking to research divestment and excitement about bringing their skills from the Panel into their work.

The purpose of the Task Force is to carefully consider the issue of fossil fuel divestment and present a report and recommendation to the full Board. Griesemer emphasized that the group would prioritize the “rule of reason, civil discourse, and informed discussion” as has been done with Strategic Issues panels. Griesemer and the others also stressed that the process will be almost completely transparent and public. From now until the end of October, the Task Force will bring in multiple community leaders and stakeholders to present to the Task Force and answer questions. Since the three Trustees on the Task Force will not be making any decisions, they said their role is to “listen” at these conversations. Among the individuals they seek to bring in to these hearings will be financial experts and academicians who have studied the issue of divestment. These hearings will be publicized and open to the public. At this point, only two presenters have been confirmed: students leaders from Divest DU and the Faculty Senate. These two presentations will be happening between the start of the 2016-17 academic year and the end of October, when the Task Force will conclude the hearings and start their deliberation process.

To include Divest DU, the DU community, and the larger higher education community in this process of inviting individuals to present, listening to their testimonies, and concatenating their resources and recommendations, the Task Force will be creating a public DU Portfolio webpage. As a transparency measure, this webpage will offer access to full-length videos of testimonials as well as materials presented to the Task Force by Divest DU. The first list of resources from Divest DU is presented here and will be accessible as soon as the DU Portfolio page is up and running.

In order to ensure that student voices from Divest DU are heard throughout this process, we will be allowed to recommend individuals for the Task Force to consult, attend the public hearings and suggest questions beforehand, as well as provide additional reading materials as the Task Force progresses. We are very grateful for these measures, as they recognize our common stake in this issue and the research Divest DU has already done.

Divest DU is committed to ensuring that the University of Denver lives up to its own morals and acts accordingly to combat climate change. We recognize that every day spent in inaction pushes the climate crisis further into unknown territory. We intend to guide the Task Force in its deliberations, continue to organize students around climate action, and ensure that the Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels in January 2017. 

We will be updating you on news about the Task Force as they release their hearing schedules. Please email us at divestdu@gmail.com if you have any questions or suggestions.

DU Faculty Senate Votes YES to Endorse Divestment

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The full Faculty Senate of the University of Denver voted on Friday, May 20th to pass a resolution to endorse fossil fuel divestment as a realistic and appropriate step to combat the global climate crisis.

32 members voted yes, 12 voted no, and 2 abstained from the vote to pass the resolution. A motion to delay the vote until the next academic year was introduced, but not passed.

As the premier body of elected DU faculty members representing all academic departments of DU, this endorsement has wide-reaching power to push fossil fuel divestment forward and is the result of months of hard work by faculty and student leaders alike.

Those who voted in favor of the resolution cited student leadership and research as a primary motivator for their decision. When a few Senate members expressed their concern that the vote was being rushed, supportive faculty members stood up and argued that the Senate must stand with students- as we have devoted countless hours researching the issue, presented material to the Senate, and fully demonstrated our passion and drive to make real change happen at DU.

A timeline of events leading up to this resolution:

  • October 23, 2015 – Divest DU Institutional Coordinator Nick Stubler presents to the Faculty Senate. Immediately afterwards, the Senate votes to form the Faculty Senate Divestment Committee. By the end of Fall Quarter, the Committee is finalized with the goal of presenting a recommendation to the Senate in February. The faculty members of the Committee are as follows:
    • Darrin Hicks, Chair
    • Sarah Bexell
    • Fred Cheever
    • Claude d’Estree
    • Ryan Gildersleeve
    • Matthew Gordon
    • Arthur Jones
    • Megan Kelly
    • Brian Majestic
    • Tom Quinn
    • Dean Saitta
    • Erika Trigoso Rubio
  • February 13, 2016 – The Open Letter from the Faculty to Chancellor Chopp and the Board of Trustees is published and starts collecting signatures.
  • February 23 – Faculty Senate Divestment Committee decides to host a debate for the full Senate instead of pass a recommendation. Divest DU student leaders step down from the Committee.
  • March 27 – Faculty Open Letter reaches 50 signatures.
  • April 14 – Divest DU presents to the Board of Trustees, holds rally with upwards of 100 students in attendance.
  • April 22 – DU Debate Team presents to the Faculty Senate on divestment.
  • May 2 – Board of Trustees announces formation of Task Force on Divestment
  • May 11 – Faculty Senate Divestment Committee votes to recommend fossil fuel divestment.
  • May 20 – Full Faculty Senate votes to pass resolution endorsing fossil fuel divestment.

The resolution also includes seven recommendations related to climate change mitigation, responsible investments, and a just transition to a clean energy economy. It appears here in its entirety:

Faculty Senate Resolution - FinalFaculty Senate Resolution - Final p2

DU Faculty have recognized the power of our movement and their own stake in the issue and have chosen to demand climate justice. The fact that the full Faculty Senate voted to endorse fossil fuel divestment after the formation of the Board of Trustees Task Force shows their true dedication to the issue and allegiance with students, and puts more pressure on the Task Force as they move forward. Many thanks to all of our student and faculty supporters who have brought us this far!

Our Faculty Open Letter currently has 73 signatures. Students, please tell your professors about this incredible milestone and ask them to sign the Faculty Open Letter in support of fossil fuel divestment!

BOT To Create Divestment Task Force, Vote on Divestment in January 2017

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It’s been almost a month since we presented our case in front of DU’s Board of Trustees and showed student power at a rally that attracted upwards of 100 people. Finally, the Board has responded and we are able to see the results of two and a half years of hard work. Copied below is an email that the entire DU community received from BOT Chair Doug Scrivner on this Monday:

Gmail - Message from the chair of the Board of Trustees

VICTORY!

 

As a result of Divest DU’s 2.5 years of organizing, the University of Denver Board of Trustees has committed to comprehensively analyze the issue of divestment, opening a path towards voting on full fossil fuel divestment by January, 2017.

The Board of Trustees Task Force will be finalized in the coming week, and will have its first meeting with students before the end of this school year. Following a thorough analysis of fossil fuel divestment as it pertains to DU, the Task Force will make a recommendation to the entire Board before the January Board meeting, where the entire Board will vote on divesting the University of Denver from climate catastrophe.

This victory is a direct result of our organizing, and would not have happened without your support. Six months ago, the Board informed Divest DU that they did not have time to engage with the issue of divestment this school year; through our mobilization, the Board has moved to fulfill their ethical and fiduciary responsibility in seriously investigating the process of divestment.

While Divest DU has undoubtedly won a huge victory, this fight for climate justice is not over. Next year, we will need everyone’s active support in continuing to build power on campus, and hold our Trustees accountable for protecting our generation’s indefeasible right to raise our children on a safe and hospitable planet.

Solidarity,
– Divest DU

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Why Climate Justice is a Racial Justice Panel Discussion

 

Divest DU addresses Board of Trustees

View the original Clarion article here:

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On Thursday, April 14 at 2:45 p.m., five leaders of the student organization, Divest DU, presented to the Board of Trustees (BOT) at their biannual meeting in the Anderson Academic Commons (AAC).

Senior Nick Stubler (Grand Junction, Colorado), senior Erin Smith (La Crosse, Wisconsin),  junior Lori Scott (Denver), sophomore Kengo Nagaoka (Fairbanks, Alaska) and freshman Maddy Gawler (Denver) addressed the BOT.

Following a rally of upwards of 100 DU students, the BOT listened to Divest DU’s proposal to terminate all financial investments from DU’s endowment in the fossil fuel industry.

The rally, which occurred on Carnegie Green, included poster making, speeches and singing all in preparation for the students to face the BOT.

Walking into the AAC, the students sang a rendition of The Beatles’ “Let it Be”, singing “this is the time for urgency, the future is for you and me, divest from the industry, you and me.”

Greeting the board members, students stood and sang in solidarity with the presenters before sending them into the meeting: promptly leaving once the discussion between the board and the Divest DU leaders began.

Stubler started the discussion following the chair of the BOT, Douglas G. Scrivner’s, introduction.

“We are here today to listen. To understand. To discuss,” said Scrivner.

Stubler thanked the board for their time, then spoke with passion regarding the importance of fossil fuel divestment.

“Today’s presentation is about the urgency of the climate crisis and DU’s moral obligation to take active steps in combating it,” said Stubler.

Stubler also described the present climate trends, stating that 2015 was the warmest year on record, thus explaining to the board that it is crucial for the university to divest sooner than later.

“Our actions or inactions today will affect the lives of humanity for the next millennium,” said Stubler.

Scott followed Stubler’s remarks, speaking of DU’s moral duty to both the local and global community.

“Being a great private university dedicated to the public good, our investment practices that continue institutional oppression are irreconcilable. At DU, we aim to have a culture steeped in ethics and social responsibility. The dissonance between this vision and our investment practices that are directly responsible for perpetuating systemic violence detracts from the authority and integrity of our institution. It is our moral duty as people in positions of economic, political and social power to commit to divestment in June,” said Scott.

Following Scott’s argument, Nagaoka addressed the BOT about the economics and politics of divestment, hoping to answer any questions that surround divestment and the potential impact it could have on the school’s economics.

“Divestment is a strategy for creating an environment where the ultimate solutions for addressing climate change can be enacted,” said Nagaoka. “Universities are moral pillars in our communities. By divesting from fossil fuels, universities send a powerful message that siding with the fossil fuel industry is immoral.”

Progressing through the discussion, Gawler explained to the BOT how Divest DU’s goals should align with the university’s  future.

“The peak of fossil fuel investments has passed. The future of investment lies with renewables and socially responsible solutions. Your job as the BOT members is to safeguard and grow our endowment. Every day that you don’t divest is a day of risk,” said Gawler. “With divestment, DU would be the first major university in our region to divest, making us a regional leader. In being a climate leader through divestment, DU will distinguish itself as one of the top-tier institutions in our country.”

Finally, Smith denoted that the university needs to listen to its students and that the BOT must consider the future of DU when considering divestment.

“Divestment is what your current students want and is what your future students need,” said Smith.

Questions from various BOT members followed the conclusion of the student presentation, showing the BOT’s engagement and focus on what the students had stated. Members of the BOT thanked Divest DU for their hard work and insights. The discussion lasted for over an hour.

According to Divest DU’s Facebook page, the chair of the BOT Investment Committee, Kevin C. Gallagher, told the student leaders that the board will not be able to reach a conclusion regarding divestment by the end of the school year. The students asked the board to vote on divestment by May 14.

“Unfortunately, after a very positive Q and A, the meeting ended on a negative note, with Gallagher unequivocally refusing to consider our request for the committee to vote on divestment by May 14,” said Stubler. “We know that it is possible for the committee to vote on divestment by May 14, and are disappointed by Mr. Gallagher’s refusal to do so. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that our board members address the the threat of climate change now; continuing to push the decision down the road violates their moral obligation to current and future students by failing to protect our indefeasible human rights to live on a safe and hospitable planet,” said Stubler.

Divest DU plans to continue taking action in the coming weeks, focusing on urging Gallagher and the overall committee to continue to consider divestment.