SF State pledges to divest in fossil fuels over next five years

SF State became the first four year university to promise to remove all of their investments in fossil fuel companies. The decision is a major pledge by the university to strive for a more environmentally friendly campus.

Gopal Dayaneni, from the justice and ecology project Movement Generation, speaks to a swarm of students at the end of the Divestment Convergence conference in Annex I at SF State Saturday, April 5. “Mother nature is gonna win. Either we’re on her side or we’re kicked out of the house.” Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress

SF State hosted the second annual Divestment Convergence conference last weekend which was organized by Fossil Free SFSU and sponsored by the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

The conference gave a diverse group of student activists a way to strategize about working toward their common goal of systematically removing university investment money in fossil fuel companies over the next five years.

“Our core purpose is to strengthen the movement as a whole,” said Logistics Coordinator for the event Jason Schwartz. “We want to get as many people together at once as we can. This was done last year, which led to a national network.” 

Speakers address the crowd during the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence conference in Annex I at SF State Saturday, April 5. Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress

SF State student groups became interested in the movement in Spring 2013.

Associated Students, Inc. voted unanimously to support the divestment shortly after.

Last June, the SF State Foundation pulled all investments from coal and tar sands companies in a pledge to take major steps to become a more environmentally friendly university, though it has yet to divest from oil companies and other non-renewable energy sources.

Wahleah Johns from the Black Mesa Water Coalition speaks to students at the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence conference in Annex I at SF State Saturday, April 5. Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress

According to Schwartz, the University had planned to come out with a report on full divestment in March, but pushed back the deadline. The administration did not give a reason for the postponement.

“They’re really dragging their feet,” said Schwartz. “We’re disappointed that the report didn’t come out. We’re planning on working very closely with the administration in the coming months.”

The SF State Foundation defended its decision to approach divestment cautiously in a press release April 3.

“The Foundation makes investments so that returns can help build the University and its future – that is our fiduciary responsibility,” said Foundation chair John Gumas. “We are charting new waters here. As we develop new practices and learn from the experience, we will share our findings with other colleges and universities.”

Alli Wellton from Harvard and Shawn Carland from the University of Southern Maine embrace at the end of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence conference in Annex I at SF State Saturday, April 5. Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress

The organization emphasizes not only divestment from non-renewable energy companies, but re-investment in clean and renewable energy sources. They claim that profits from oil, gas, coal and tar sands companies are volatile and on the decline as people realize that fossil fuels are a finite resource.

“This is not only socially responsible, but economically feasible as well,” said Fossil Free SFSU member Adam Sherman, who asserts that many investors have had success with renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower.

The movement has convinced some members of the administration and foundation to take the possibility of full divestment seriously.

“I was only thinking about the legal obligation to create a larger return to the investment,” said Robert J. Nava, the president of the SF State University Foundation, speaking at an event at the conference. “This moment wouldn’t have ever happened if it weren’t for the students.”

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