In spite of protests, university shirks divestment decision

Campus News
Students hold a blue banner representing investment in clean energy sources. Photo by Cormac O'Brien
Students hold a blue banner representing investment in clean energy sources. Photo by Cormac O’Brien

Despite a protest designed to expedite a divestment decision from the UVic Board of Governors on Tuesday, Jan. 26, a future without fossil fuel investment seems as far away as ever for Divest UVic and the University of Victoria.

A group of about fifty students, faculty, and staff alike lined up outside the entrance to the Senate and Board Chambers in protest of the Board’s continued indecision around investing in alternate energy sources. Two lines created a pathway through which the governors entered, with each side representing a choice for the university — black banners and posters for fossil fuels, or blue for renewable energy.

But rather than make the immediate impact protestors were hoping for, the demonstration ended the same way others have done —a desire for change met by inaction from the Board.

The demonstrators responded in the wake of a letter from UVic Faculty for Divestment that was received Dec. 14, 2015, and scheduled first on the docket for consideration by the Board. The letter has over 200 signatures, and calls upon the university “to freeze new [fossil fuel] investments now, and phase out current investments over the next three years.”

Board Chair Erich Mohr thanked the demonstrators who had made their way into the chambers, noting that he was “personally delighted to see the level of commitment” shown by the UVic faculty and staff present.

However, Mohr told the demonstrators that a decision on divestment fell under the jurisdiction of the University of Victoria Foundation, and that the governors had neither the responsibility nor the desire to tell the Foundation how to spend its money.

The UVic Foundation is responsible for the management of endowment funds which are disbursed amongst various university projects and programs. It is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors.

Malkolm Boothroyd, a member of Divest UVic, attended both the protest and the board meeting.

“[It] sounds a lot like a stall tactic to us,” said Boothroyd regarding the Board’s indecision. “I think if the university really took divestment seriously, they’d find a way to make it happen.”

There were calls from the Board for a meeting between members of Divest, the Board of Governors, and members of the UVic Foundation, but no date was formally set.

“Students, as we showed today, are incredibly empowered around this issue,” said Boothroyd, “and we are going to continue to organize and mobilize and make sure the university has no choice but to divest.”