The Student Assembly (SA) of the Undergraduate Student Government of Boston College (UGBC) passed a resolution on Tuesday night, calling for the university to divest its endowment investment in the fossil fuel industry. The resolution was passed with 15 votes in favor and two votes in opposition.
Ellen O’Brien, MCAS '20 and head of UGBC's Environmental & Sustainability Committee, sponsored the divestment resolution, which was developed by the committee and Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC).
The university endowment, which reached $2.4 billion in 2017, has investments in the fossil fuel industry. This support has prompted criticism from students who are concerned about the effects of climate change and its disproportionate impact on society’s most marginalized communities.
“It was really important to show the administration how the student body stands on the issue of divestment, and I think that the vote in the SA demonstrated that,” said O’Brien.
The resolution noted that many Catholic institutions, including Georgetown University, have already divested from the fossil fuel industry in response to Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ and the social teachings of the church.
Additionally, more than 2,500 students, alumni, staff, and faculty members from the BC community signed a petition spread by CJBC which asked that “Boston College immediately freeze any new investments and divest existing funds in fossil fuel companies within five years.”
Within the past year, members of CJBC have called for divestment with a silent demonstration outside Pops on the Heights in September, as well as during a debate with the BC Investment Club over the issue of divestment in February.
Individual students unaffiliated with any campus organization also called for fossil fuel divestment in many of the chalk messages that appeared on campus sidewalks last month.
“The resolution follows a more than five year effort by students calling on Boston College to evaluate its investments in the context of its Jesuit values, and [it] is reminiscent of efforts to divest from South Africa due to apartheid in the 1980s,” stated the CJBC press release following the resolution.
CJBC suggested that money divested from the fossil fuel industry should be directed towards companies that are committed to renewable energy and sustainability.
The press release also noted that a similar resolution calling for divestment from fossil fuels was passed with a 17-1 vote by the SA in 2013. However, the university decided that this vote was considered invalid in light of controversy regarding the voting procedure.
Moving forward, CJBC stated its intention to continue educating the BC community about the importance of divestment and to work together with UGBC, administrators, and the Board of Trustees to determine next steps.
“Today is an important day in the university’s more than 150 year history, as well as in the fight for a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future,” said the press release. “Divestment will be a clear acknowledgement of the climate crisis happening at present and BC’s commitment to fight it.”