Students, faculty pledge to halt donations until Stanford divests from fossil fuels

Stanford students protested their university’s investment in the fossil fuel and oil industry on Friday during its annual senior gift announcement with university advancement officers by hanging banners and pledging to withhold their donations until Stanford divests.

Fossil Free Stanford, the political advocacy group that spearheaded the petition that has garnered the signatures of over 1,000 students and alumni, has the Stanford Class of 2016’s pledge published on its website where it invites current students and alumni to sign the pledge to withhold their senior gift until Stanford pulls all of its $22.2 billion endowment out of the oil and gas industries.

According to Stanford’s website, The Senior Gift Campaign is a fundraising effort for The Stanford Fund, which “supports scholarships, academic programs, and student-led organizations that make Stanford unique”.

In 2014-2015, Stanford collected $26 million in donations, distributing 68 percent to need-based financial aid and 21 percent to academic programs such as its Diversity and First-Gen Office, which helps first generation and low-income students; the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities; and the Leland Scholars Program, which provides a rigorous pre-orientation to freshman who did not have access to advanced STEM courses in high school.

The remaining eleven percent funds student groups.

Also on Fossil Free Stanford’s website is a list of demands, where they demand Stanford freeze new investments in the top 100 oil and gas companies and divest within five years from direct ownership in those companies. The exception, they claim, can be made if these 100 companies publicly commit to only burning 20 percent or less of their reserves, stop seeking new fossil fuel reserves, and stop actively lobbying against national legislation and international agreements that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil Free Stanford staged a weeklong sit-in in November, where members held hands and formed a circle around Building 10, which houses the offices of the president and provost. Members read letters, wore “Fossil Free” shirt, and joined in song, The Stanford Daily reported.

The group had subsequently submitted a Request for Review to the University’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility (APIRL), which prompted the Board of Trustees’ Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR) to release their decision to not divest on April 25. In the Board of Trustees’ public statement, the board emphasized the requirements for divestment, including the company or industry’s social injury outweighing the social benefits. According to the Board, APIRL could “not evaluate whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs the social benefit it provides”.

In response to the decision, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), which acts as Stanford’s governing student body, penned an Op-Ed published in The Stanford Daily that denounced the decision.

“We have a duty to respond to the scientific evidence for climate change and its impacts, and act in accordance with what our conscience has known all along. We have never been, nor will we ever be, protected from the blows to our institution’s moral character,” ASSU said.

According to Fossil Free Stanford, more than 379 Stanford faculty have co-signed a letter calling on the administration to divest, and the ASSU and Graduate Student Council have passed resolutions in support of fossil fuel divestment.

According to The Stanford Daily, on February 16th, three professors arguing for divestment met with President John Hennessy. Elizabeth Tallent, a professor of English and the lead author of a letter advocating for divestment, argued that the moral and ethical responsibilities of the university impelled fossil fuel divestment in order to avert an existential threat to future generations.

Fossil Free Stanford claims that their “movement is not going away” and encourages students and faculty to attend their meetings, go to working group meetings and talk to others about the campaign.

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