Student referendum lacks specifics

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I was pleased to attend Thursday’s annual general meeting of the UVSS. To see Cinecenta filled to capacity with hundreds of students passionate about issues which affect our university was fantastic. I was disappointed, however, at the lack of clarity in the UVSS’s plans for divestment. The referendum, which an overwhelming majority of the crowd voted to hold, reads as follows:

Do you support the UVSS lobbying the University of Victoria Foundation to withdraw (or “divest”) its direct investments in fossil fuel companies and re-invest the proceeds in the most financially and socially responsible alternative investments? Yes / No

Personally, I am undecided on the issue of divestment. My main concern is that the University of Victoria has stable, reliable sources of revenue to support our students, faculty, and administration, as well as the many services this campus provides. If a strong majority of undergraduates say they don’t want revenues coming from the fossil fuel industry, I can respect their decision. I’d just like to know what these “financially and socially responsible alternative investments” are.

As UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson was quoted by the Martlet on October 2nd, Divest UVic provides “no examples” of “socially responsible and sustainable options” in which UVic can re-invest. They simply want our university to lose a significant source of revenue without first finding a new source to replace it.

The vague language of the question forced me to join a small handful of students at the AGM who voted no when asked to put this question to referendum. Before the referendum is held, in March 2015, I would like to know some specifics. If UVic were to divest, what alternative investments would they consider? Will these investments be as reliable and profitable as fossil fuel investments? Who gets to decide if an investment is “most financially and socially responsible?“

These questions should have already been answered, and until that happens, I do not trust the UVSS with placing our money into unknown investments. The UVSS has provided us with many wonderful clubs, services, and activities. I would be sad to see those budgets slashed because well-intentioned students voted for a vague policy that could hurt us all in the long run.

Will Dahlem is a fourth-year undergraduate student in political science.

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