Nearly a hundred members of the UC community are expected to hold a protest calling for fossil fuel divestment outside the UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento on Wednesday.
Since January, Fossil Free UC, a coalition of organizations from eight UC campuses that are against fossil fuel, has met with members of the Board of Regents several times to discuss setting up a systemwide task force — which would include students, faculty and regents — to explore the feasibility of divestment from fossil fuels. Now, students, alumni and faculty members from the university are calling on the regents to commit to a timeline for the formation of the task force and divestment by November.
“Between January and now, the whole process for creating a task force has been held up in bureaucracy with the university pushing back on what it should be called and what the regents’ role should be,” said Ophir Bruck, a student organizer with Fossil Free UC. “(The) time for action is now.”
Echoing this message, the demonstrators will be carrying a big clock set at the 11th hour with a sign that reads “Divest Now” on the 12th hour.
The issue of fossil fuel divestment is not listed on the official agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, but the protesters are planning to speak with the regents during an open session scheduled for public comments.
Although the top demand of the protesters is the university’s full divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, they are taking a practical approach, starting with the establishment of a task force and examination into the costs and benefits of various possible scenarios, Bruck said.
UC spokesperson Shelly Meron did not comment on behalf of the university, because the protest has not yet taken place.
A similar protest occurred at the UC Regents meeting a year ago, but this time is different, Bruck said. Since then, Fossil Free UC has garnered support and sponsorship from other university organizations, including United Auto Workers Local 2865 — a union of student academic employees that includes graduate student workers, readers and tutors — and various food justice groups.
Additionally, the nation has witnessed increased mobility against fossil fuel on college campuses, Bruck said. Stanford University announced the divestment of its endowment from stock in coal-mining companies — worth more than $18 billion — May 6. Stanford students have welcomed this decision with excitement, said Yari Greaney, one of the lead student organizers for Fossil Free Stanford.
“(The fossil free) movement is actually on its way to making big changes,” Greaney said. “We need to keep pushing until complete divestment, but we need to keep in mind that we are already seeing victory.”
Fossil Free UC hopes the university will follow Stanford’s example and continue engaging in constructive conversations with various members of the UC community.
“The university’s mission is to serve the public good, and participating in open dialogue is synonymous with this mission,” Bruck said.