Oxford Alumni to Hand Back Diplomas After School Defers Divestment
'This deferral represents serious complacency towards the urgent need for action on climate change,' student group warns.
Alumni and students of Britain's Oxford University are up in arms over the school's deferral of a plea to pull shares of its $3.9 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies.
Following the University Council decision on Monday to postpone the matter of divestment to a "future meeting," a number of alumni swiftly claimed occupation of a university administration building to demonstrate their anger over the announcement.
"Oxford Alumni Say Divest From Fossil Fuels," read a banner which the protesters draped out of a building window.
Other graduates of the esteemed school, including Guardian journalist George Monbiot and solar energy entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett, pledged to symbolically hand back their diploma over the board's refusal.
"For an academic institution charged with the responsibility of shaping young lives the choice ought to be clear. It doesn’t make sense to train young people to nurture civilization with one hand while bankrolling the sabotage of it with the other," Leggett wrote.
Following the meeting on Monday, the council released a statement saying: "Last October’s Oxford university student union resolution has raised an important and multi-faceted matter which requires thorough consideration. The university council had a good discussion of the issues and agreed to consider the matter further at a future meeting."
Responding to the announcement, the Oxford University Fossil Free Divestment Campaign, which organized the divestment resolution, said it was "disappointed" with Oxford's decision. "This deferral represents serious complacency towards the urgent need for action on climate change," the group said.
The campaign is calling on supporters to continue to lobby the university to divest, adding: "The University must also know that our campaign will only grow from here; we will continue to make our demands, now with renewed urgency and determination."
Alumni and university donors can sign a petition to the school here.
Students at Harvard University are preparing for a week-long campaign in April to lobby the school to pull their funding from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
Over the weekend, the United Nations climate change body threw its own "moral authority" behind the growing movement and the 180 institutions which have thus far committed to divest.
"We support divestment as it sends a signal to companies, especially coal companies, that the age of 'burn what you like, when you like' cannot continue," said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). "Everything we do is based on science and the science is pretty clear that we need a world with a lot less fossil fuels."
Correction: This article was updated to fix an inaccuracy about the size of Oxford's endowment.