Student Senate pressures university to reject funding from energy companies

The No Fossil Fuel Money Act urges the university to not accept research funding from fossil fuel companies.

The motion is part of an ongoing effort by student leaders to cut university ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The George Washington University Student Association Senate unanimously passed the No Fossil Fuels Act earlier this month to pressure the university to stop accepting research funding from fossil fuel companies.

Sponsored by Senator Sofia Packer, the resolution calls for the university to phase out financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. The motion would result in severed partnerships from major corporations including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and the Koch Industry.

”Be it resolved,” the resolution declared, “that administrators at the George Washington University should take a stand and support the eventual ban of fossil fuel money.”

Climate change denial and “catastrophic consequences” of the fossil fuel industry were cited as reasons to phase out funding.

Students have largely opposed donations by leading fossil fuel corporations, with the resolution responding to the millions of dollars invested by calling the donors’ agendas an “active campaign of climate denial.”

[RELATED: MA state lawmakers introduce bill compelling Harvard to ditch fossil fuels]

Similarly, the university’s Regulatory Studies Center has been criticized by leftist media for accepting millions of dollars in research funding from the pockets of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil to further explore deregulation.

”The fossil fuel industry willfully kills and displaces millions of people every year,” the student resolution claims. “Now nearly half a century later, our social responsibility to ensure the life and safety of one another lies in acting upon the long-ignored knowledge that fossil fuel production is killing us.”

The resolution was drafted following a student-led campaign organized by Sunrise GW to pack pressure on the university to cut out the funding. 

Sunrise Movement, the parent organization of Sunrise GW, is a national organization that empowers young people to be a part of climate change activism. 

According to its website, Sunrise GW is “building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for health and wellbeing for all people.”

The organization has been influential in leading the anti-fossil fuel charge for two years on the Washington D.C. campus.

In November, the university chapter launched the “No Fossil Fuel Money Campaign” that rallied support from more than 1,000 students in a petition to end the university’s reliance on funding from 200 organizations that “work to oppose climate action.”

”This strategy includes funding research in higher education, which has successfully influenced academic inquiry, tempered universities’ willingness to challenge the industry, and bolstered the credibility and social license of fossil fuel companies even as they imperil humanity,” the petition read.

Last week, the petition was delivered as a stop on the organization’s “Fossil Fuel Tour of GW” to President Mark Wrighton. 

The tour was led by the organization to point out “all of the beneficiaries of fossil fuel money on campus.” Students carried a large check issued to the RSC from “Your Friends at Koch & Exxon” priced at “$2,500,000+.”

A smaller check was taped to one of the building’s rooms with the memo “help us pollute.”

Handwritten letters were also delivered to the dean of the Colombian College of Arts and Sciences Paul Wahlbeck. 

[RELATED: Penn commits to net zero emissions by 2050. Leftist students want it within four years.]

Previous activism conducted by the organization includes rallying outside of former President Thomas LeBlanc’s home in 2020 to pressure the university to divest endowments. Last year, organization members marched to take their demands further and advocate for the closure of the RSC.

Amid the controversy, the university has taken strides to implement new, green standards to quiet climate change concerns. In 2020, the university affirmed it would take “swift and decisive action to reverse the trends of climate change and the inequity in our institutions and society.”

As part of the initiative to combat climate concerns, the university vowed to divest from fossil fuels by 2025, enact “campus carbon neutrality” by 2030, and eliminate historic greenhouse gasses. 

The university has also advocated approval for the Paris Climate Agreement, which America re-entered under the Biden administration last February. 

Campus Reform has reached out to the Student Association Senate, Packer, Sunrise GW, and GWU for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow @AlexaSchwerha1 on Twitter