Utopian dream? UVA student gov wants 'community gardens' instead of fossil fuels

Student government members at the University of Virginia passed legislation endorsing a call for the school to “divest” from fossil fuel investments.

The students recommended that the university reinvest its endowment into composting, electric buses, living wages for university employees, and “community gardens.”

Student Council members at the University of Virginia passed a bill encouraging the school to “divest” from fossil fuel investments.

On February 9, members of the student council passed a resolution voicing support for student group DivestUVA’s letter to the University of Virginia Investment Management Company.

The letter asks for the withdrawal of funds from entities supporting the use of fossil fuels.

“We have worked for the past five years as DivestUVA to advocate for the divestment of university funds from fossil fuel-based entities,” reads the document. “We believe that our endowment investments are a tool to either foster the change we would like to see in our local and global communities or to continue to uphold existing racially and environmentally unjust power structures that, as an institution, we publicly decry.”

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The students insist that divesting from fossil fuel investments will “serve as an active agent for racial justice” in addition to meeting carbon neutrality by 2030.

Several student organizations — including the Young Democratic Socialists of America at UVA, Animal Justice Advocates, Profit with Purpose, and the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition — signed the letter.

Noah Strike, the University of Virginia Student Council’s Director of Media Relations, declined to comment.

The letter presents the University of Virginia Investment Management Company with data from the NAACP’s Clean Air Task Force, which draws a connection between racial justice and the proximity of African-American communities to power plants.

[RELATED: UVA employees form anti-racism union]

According to the letter, several American universities — including Brown, Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown — have launched divestment initiatives within the past three years.

The students recommend that the Investment Management Company reinvest funds into composting, electric buses, living wages for university employees, and “community gardens.”

Deven Upadhyay — a University of Virginia undergraduate — told Campus Reform that “the Student Council’s goal is surely an ambitious one and setting ambitious goals is core to any student council.”

“Although it is very unlikely any of these changes from the divestment to occur in the near future, the Student Council feels a sense of success by simply passing unrealistic resolutions,” he added. “In a way, this mirrors empty, utopian objectives set by Congresspeople. Fossil fuel investments seem to keep the University running and to jeopardize that through experimenting with alternatives right now is risky at worst and insignificant at best.”

The students repeatedly invoked tenets of the University of Virginia Racial Equity Task Force’s report, “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” which Campus Reform covered in August.

[RELATED: UVA task force wants to earmark nearly $1 billion for racial equity]

The report recommends earmarking $950 million over the course of ten years for racial equity projects, including $100 to $150 million for the creation of a new African-American and African Studies department, as well as $500 to $650 million for a perpetual equity “quasi-endowment.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft