Fossil Free Cal protests inside Sproul Hall to pressure university into fossil fuel divestment

Azwar Shakeel/Staff

Related Posts

Fossil Free Cal, a nonregistered student organization on campus, staged a sit-in inside Sproul Hall on Monday to voice its demand for the university to divest completely from fossil fuel companies by 2025.

About 9:30 a.m., more than 20 students gathered in Sproul Hall to protest, alternating between chanting slogans and delivering speeches emphasizing the importance of divesting from fossil fuel companies. The university currently holds $2.5 billion worth of investments in the fossil fuel industry including stocks in oil and gas companies, according to Tyler Jacobson, a campus sophomore and member of Fossil Free Cal.

“Today, with all of you sitting … you are demonstrating the value of justice,” said Zak Handler, a core committee member in Fossil Free Cal. “We will not let our institutions be complicit.”

These investments were reduced from $3 billion when the university announced March 15 that it would be divesting from two companies with ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline and reduced investments in the coal and tar sand industry, according to Jacobson.

Protesters also held banners with phrases such as “Please leave fossil fuel alone” and “Save our air-water” printed across them. According to Uthara Vengrai, a freshman and member of Fossil Free Cal present at the meeting, the group had been trying to get in touch with UC Regent Richard Sherman since Monday morning.

“We have been calling his office to advocate for divestment, and his assistant said he will call,” Vengrai said.

UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher announced in a UC Investments Subcommittee meeting March 15 the university’s decision to reduce its investments from Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, two companies that own part of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Jacobson and then-ASUC senator Rigel Robinson, along with three other students, had lobbied for the decision and were present at the meeting.

Robinson said the March divestment was “a huge step in the right direction,” adding that it should be considered a stepping stone for future action. He emphasized his continued commitment to pressure the university under his new role as ASUC external affairs vice president.

“The University of California is losing money because of continuous investment in fossils,” Vengrai said. “Stocks are going down. A lot of other companies are divesting.”

She used the example of Kettle, a potato chips company that allegedly advertises its commitment to divest on the chips bag. Vengrai also said minority groups are disproportionately targeted as supporters of fossil fuel companies.

“Plants are put in low income communities (and) a lot of employment goes there,”  Vengrai said. “People think they want it, but it is polluting their air and water.”

About 20 protesters were still inside Sproul Hall at 6:20 p.m. when Dean Joseph Greenwell came to talk to them. He assured the group about his commitment to facilitate conversation between protesters and campus administration and desire to work with Fossil Free Cal in the future, according to Nadia Bell, a protester present at the sit-in.

“(We want the university to) stand with the values it promotes,”  said Claire Morrison, a senior and Fossil Free Cal member. “(Fossil fuel) impacts our future and present. (It’s) past time the UC takes action.”

At 7:40 p.m., UCPD read a dispersal order to protesters assembled inside Sproul Hall. Two campus first-year students, Angela White and Ellie Roussous, were arrested for noncompliance.

Contact Azwar Shakeel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.