Seattle University students and supporters rallied at the campus quad Monday night to bring attention to a recent decision by school administrators not to join a push for schools across the country to divest in fossil fuel companies.
The school’s student-run Spectator reported on the failed talks between the administration and the Sustainable Student Action group that has called on the university to end its investments in companies that generate revenue through the sale and production of fossil fuels, the source of the majority of the greenhouse gases impacting the planet. Some argue that as a Jesuit Catholic university, Seattle U has more than an intellectual obligation for the divestment. Nearly 8,000 students attend the school located just south of E Madison on the edge of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The school continues to grow and is planning to add 13 new projects as it expands into the surrounding neighborhood.
Monday night’s rally comes a week before next Tuesday’s Earth Day, the 44th anniversary of the worldwide event celebrating environmental protection.
A letter from Sustainable Student Action sent to media about the group’s continued efforts to push for the divestment is below — along with more pictures of the rally.
We, members of the student body and university community, oppose Seattle University’s current investment in the fossil fuel industry and are disappointed by the Administration’s refusal to rectify our current investment in further exploring and burning fossil fuels in the face of ongoing destruction. We are distressed by the total lack of missional governance of our endowment, ignoring scientific warnings and the welfare of human communities. As members of the student body, and a wider community, we remain committed to divestment from fossil fuels as a moral imperative of Seattle University’s mission and a necessary national movement within the fight for climate justice.
Throughout the last 15 months, Seattle University (SU) student club, Sustainable Student Action (SSA), has campaigned toward the divestment of the university’s endowment fund from the top 20 carbon-reserve-holding companies of the fossil fuel industry. SSA gathered over 600 petition signatures from students and faculty, as well as endorsements from Seattle University’s Student Government and from the faculty governance body, the Academic Assembly. SSA has maintained consistent dialogue with the SU administration, meeting with the university’s Chief Financial Officer, Connie Kanter, as well as presenting to the Investment committee of the Board of Trustees and the President’s Cabinet.
Six weeks ago, SSA members sat down with several administrators as they issued a response to our year-long campaign: SU administration refuses to divest, and will not conduct an economic feasibility study as requested. The administration asserted, “Using endowment funds entrusted to us by our donors for a purpose other than their original intent is an extraordinary step.” We are grieved to learn that the university is, under current policy, willing to invest in any profitable company or industry, disregarding ethical implications. Administrators defend this lack of policy, stating, “Divestment from fossil fuel companies will neither impact the finances nor change the behavior of affected companies.” We are concerned about this message that correct moral action is not valued in and of itself, and that conventional investment practices are prioritized over the formation of a more just and humane world.1*
Kanter and her fellow administrators expressed interest in “continuing [its] engagement with SSA” in a joint initiative between SSA members and administrators, to further the efforts of the president’s Climate Action plan, which explores positive investment screenings and shareholder advocacy but excludes divestment. We support these policies and will work to further these goals. However, we maintain that these policies must be pursued alongside implementation of larger ethical governance of our endowment, including investments in the fossil fuel industry. Profiting from and funding an industry which wreaks immediate and future hardship on the world’s most underprivileged does not align with the mission, vision, and values of this institution.
Due to the seriousness of the present and impending consequences of climate change, and with the support of the campus and surrounding community, our resolve is unwavering; we will continue to campaign for divestment.
1* — The literature suggest portfolios that are divested from fossil fuels are not negatively impacted in terms of revenue or risk.