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.