After 350 students staged a three-day sit-in inside UC Santa Barbara’s administrative building, Chancellor Henry T. Yang publicly pledged to work with other UC chancellors on divesting fossil fuel companies from the UC system’s investment portfolio.
The sit-in was led by Fossil Free UCSB campaigners, who have been calling for UC Regent Richard Sherman, chair of the UC investment committee, to cease the investment of $2.8 billion in fossil fuel companies. The demonstration enjoyed the support of more than 25 faculty members and the greater Fossil Free UC coalition, which sponsored protests at UC Berkeley and UC Davis this week as well. In UCSB’s official statement, Chancellor Yang stated: “I stand by our students who have been sitting in calling for fossil fuel divestment this past week and support their aims.”
Fossil Free UCSB has been working since 2012 to educate campus members on the destabilizing impact of fossil fuels on the climate and to encourage the UC system to divest the fossil fuel companies, stating the industry makes the future unsafe for students everywhere. “Although we had continual channels of democratic communication with Chancellor Yang and UC Regents, I think over the course of these four years, pressures from the students as well as the current political climate has shown Chancellor Yang that it is important now more than ever to divest from these companies and to find more sustainable solutions,” said Fossil Free UCSB spokesperson Cassie Macy.
While the fight is not over, getting Chancellor Yang’s support is a significant step considering he is the first UC chancellor to call for divestment from fossil fuels, the Fossil Free UCSB press release revealed. Macy explained: “We are hoping, with his endorsement, it will inspire the other UC chancellors to collaborate with him to further pressure” divestment. To encourage this conversation, students from Fossil Free UCSB and the larger coalition members plan to come en masse to the UC Regents meeting at UC San Francisco May 16-18.
This was just one of two divestment campaigns being heatedly debated this week at UCSB. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement was campaigning to have UC divest from companies that contribute to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. While fossil fuel divestment made significant progress, the BDS campaign was rejected in an Associated Students Senate vote of zero yeses, seven abstains, and 16 nos.