Students, Professors Continue Fight to Make Cornell Divest

September 29, 2013 11:46 pm2 comments

By RACHEL WEBER

Kyoto NOW!, a campus climate justice organization, has no intentions of backing down from convincing Cornell to divest its endowment from fossil fuels — even though the University said in April that it would not divest in the “immediate foreseeable future.”
This time, the student group also has faculty members on board, according to Kyoto NOW! presidents Aubree Keurajian ’15 and Dennis Fox ’15.
Kyoto NOW!’s objectives for climate justice have not changed, Fox said, adding that the organization’s past advocacy has helped it gain momentum.
“The goal of the organization has always remained the same, and even through this specific divestment campaign … the end of the goal was not to see the legislation get passed necessarily. It was to see the University commit to divestment,” Fox said.
Members of Kyoto NOW! spearheaded efforts last year to promote divestment, assisting the Student Assembly in passing a resolution in February asking the University to divest by the end of 2020. Kyoto Now! also collaborated with more than 20 student organizations asking the University to pursue divestment, The Sun previously reported.
After extensive campaigns last semester, KyotoNow! has gotten support from faculty, Fox said.
Prof. David Shalloway, molecular biology and genetics, approached Kyoto NOW! in the spring to discuss the possibility of collaborating with a Faculty Senate committee to support divestment.
“By the time we met, myself and a few faculty members had already started putting together our resolution,” Shalloway said. Shalloway said he reached out to Kyoto NOW! to see if the students could offer his committee any support because they were successful convincing the S.A. to pass a resolution advocating divestment.
Shalloway said he felt that the fact that the students had taken action meant the faculty also had to make a push.
“It was shameful that the faculty did not step up to support the students,” Shalloway said.
According to Shalloway, the committee worked on the resolution over the summer and put the resolution to the Faculty Senate Organizing Committee at the beginning of the term, which requested that his committee meet with the Univeristy’s Finance Policy Committee.
Although Shalloway said divestment is “worth the cost,” the committee needed to make a quantitative argument in order to convince faculty that the University should divest, he said.
“The Finance Committee asked for some very specific information about how we would implement the resolution if it were passed, and we’re working on that right now,” Shalloway said.
After meeting with the committee and A.J. Edwards, the University’s Chief Investment Officer, the committee now has a resolution and appendix to bring to the floor at an upcoming meeting of the Senate.
The committee consists of faculty from “all over campus” — Shalloway, Prof. Stephen Ellner, ecology and evolutionary biology, Prof. Brian Chabot, ecology and evolutionary biology, Prof. Robert Oswald, molecular medicine, Prof. Linda Nicholson, molecular biology and genetics, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, civil and environemental engineering, Prof. Charles Greene, earth and atmospheric sciences and Prof. Robert Strichartz, mathematics — who believe the University should divest, according to Shalloway.
Shalloway said he felt “both [student and faculty] voices carry weight” and have “different voices to contribute” for campus issues.
“For students, your voice is of the ones who are inheriting the planet,” Shalloway said. “As faculty, we can dig into some of the quantitative, concrete issues that are involved with a little bit more expertise.”
In addition to gaining faculty support, Fox said the campaign helped the organization develop a “pretty good relationship” with the Board of Trustees and Skorton.
“We’re still in contact with the Board of Trustees, and still looking for more information as it comes out, because [divestment] is a pretty current movement as far as campus divestment across the nation is going,” Fox said.
Future discussions are not off the table, according to Fox.
“No doors have been closed, and that’s how that’s been communicated to us,” Fox said. “They’re very interested in maintaining healthy conversation.”
While Kyoto NOW!’s prior leadership focused on passing the S.A. resolution, the organization will move forward this semester with their goals and continue asking the University to divest while bringing publicity to divestment across campus, according to Keurajian.
“We’re at a different point in the campaign,” Keurajian said. “We’re operating under the same framework. It’s the same campaign, it’s the same goals, it’s the same operating principles.”
According to Keurajian, Kyoto NOW! also intends to continue to collaborate with Ithaca College and other Cornell student activist groups.
“We have had a longstanding partnership with a lot of the other activist groups on campus,” Keurajian said, citing the Cornell Organization for Labor Action as one of their partners. “We’re continuing the collaboration with all the other groups.”
Members of Kyoto NOW! will be attending Power Shift 2013, a “nationwide convergence of youth environmental justice activists” featuring “famous keynote speakers,” as a way to expand and improve their climate justice efforts, according to Fox.
“[We’re] training to get steeped in that kind of campaign-work, grassroots organizing, networking opportunity for people around the country,” Fox said.
  • Jim Ewing

    The oil companies will be pleased to see Cornell putting its collective energy into empty and ineffectual gestures, rather than doing things that allow our economy to run on less fossil fuel.

  • CU1

    The title of this article should have read: “Loons and loon-nets frustrated at not being able to destroy the financial and economic strength of the University.”