Campus community criticizes UC’s reluctance to disinvest from DAPL after Trump’s reinstatement of construction

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Audrey McNamara/File

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Nearly two months after former president Barack Obama’s administration halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, President Donald Trump has reinstated it, prompting many campus community members to criticize the University of California for its investment in DAPL’s construction.

As first reported by the East Bay Express, the university has invested $3.1 million in Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, the two companies responsible for building the pipeline. Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to continue construction on DAPL, overriding Obama’s efforts in 2016 to deny the involved companies their construction permits.

“I’d love to see the UC divest from all fossil fuel companies … and start taking a stronger stand on climate, on all the issues that become scarier and scarier every day,” said Tyler Jacobson, campus sophomore and organizer for Fossil Free Cal, referencing Trump’s string of policy changes implemented last week.

Jacobson, along with four other campus students, met with UC Office of the President’s Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher on Wednesday to ask why the university has not completely divested from fossil fuels.

According to Jacobson, Bachher said the university invested in ETP before plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline were developed. Jacobson said Bachher didn’t commit to changing the UC investment policy at the meeting.

ASUC Senator Rigel Robinson, who was also present at the meeting, said in an email that he and the other four students brought a Change.org petition with more than 1,000 signatures drawn up by Fossil Free Cal calling for the university’s divestment.

Camille Fasset, a campus junior who also attended the meeting, said in an email that other major public universities have completely divested from fossil fuels, which makes her believe that the university is capable of doing the same.

UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez previously said in an email that the UC Office of the Chief Investment Officer considers a range of factors in its evaluation process for investments, including environmental sustainability, social responsibility and governance.

Campus junior Amanina Shofry, however, said in an email that the university’s reluctance to change its investment policy shows its preference for profit over people.

“Students have been relentlessly advocating for indigenous resistance, divestment of fossil fuels and environmental protection, apparent from all of the protests, petitions, fundraising however, the university is not responsive to any of our actions,” Shofry said in an email.

Elie Katzenson, a researcher in the campus nuclear science and security consortium, said she understands that the university could be invested in many fossil fuel companies, making divesting from all of these companies risky and complicated. She said, however, that asking the university to divest from ETP and Sunoco is “a very specific” request that would not have as adverse an effect, adding that it was “their responsibility to divest.”

“It’s ridiculous for this institution to teach its students so much about the values of sustainability and respecting indigenous people’s rights but invest in the antithesis of that,” Jacobson said. “We learn about trying to be helpful people, and our investment policy doesn’t reflect that in so many ways.”

Contact Ashley Wong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.