A Semester Closer to Divestment
While University of Illinois students reacclimate to frigid campus conditions and the daily grind of homework and classes, UIUC Beyond Coal has hit the ground running as a new semester dawns. Building on momentum from the previous semester’s successes, we hope to bring our University closer than ever before to divesting from the harmful practices of the coal industry.
UIUC Beyond Coal made significant strides over the course of last semester thanks to the outstanding efforts of its students activists. Campaign Co-President Peter Whitney kicked off the semester by addressing the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on the issue of coal divestment. With growing student support and clear evidence of coal’s environmental effects, the BoT’s inaction has become questionable. Campaign actions have garnered the attention of the local and even national media outlets. Our efforts have been featured in the Daily Illini multiple times, an Associate Press article, and the Huffington Post. In October, 39 students trekked to Pittsburgh, PA to further their environmental activism skills and knowledge for Powershift 2013. While we may not have won over the support of the University yet, we have certainly shown that our efforts will only continue to grow.
The support of the student body for our campaign was showcased when students voted in favor of divesting from the coal industry during the Fall. Despite the unhurried bureaucratic nature of the petitioning process, we were able to amass over 4,200 signatures in slightly over two weeks time. As a result, students were able to vote on a coal divestment referendum on the UIUC student ballot. After weeks of preparation, canvassing, and outreach, the hard work of our campaigners had finally paid off. In a sweeping 6-1 vote, the student body declared that it was time for the university to divest from an energy source of the past.
Yet the battle to divest from coal is still far from over. UIUC Beyond Coal will strive to make this semester even more successful than the last. Already this semester, Co-President Drew O’Bryan has spoken to the Board of Trustees in Chicagoduring their first bimonthly meeting of the semester. Drew highlighted the BoT’s power to divest from coal as well as their continuous failure to discuss the issue. He also reiterated the resolution which we are fighting for the University to pass:
- Forego any future direct investments in the “Filthy 15” coal companies effective immediately.
- Establish a committee on socially responsible investment (SRI) within the Board of Trustees to monitor progress and address any future SRI issues, as is proposed in the Illinois Climate Action Plan.
- Divest all direct and indirect holdings from the “Filthy 15” coal mining and utilities companies by the year 2017
- Construct a plan for reinvestment of a percentage of divested funds into renewable energy utilities and/or research.
Though campaign members have spoken to the BoT multiple times already, we plan speak at every BoT meeting for the remainder of the semester. This semester will see continued pressure on the BoT through establishing relationships and coalitions with administrative committees and other stakeholders throughout University of Illinois campuses, with hopes of pushing the aforementioned resolution through the tri-campus Senate.
UIUC Beyond Coal’s next major event of the semester, “Starting the Conversation on Divestment,” will take place on Tuesday, February 11th at 6:30 PM in Greg Hall Room 213. We will be hosting four speakers to provide their respective expert knowledge on the history and economics of divestment, science of coal, and frontline efforts to stop coal extraction. In addition to these endeavors, the campaign will be hosting many events throughout the semester, culminating in a rally at the end of the school year.
Keep an eye out for UIUC Beyond Coal in the coming months, it won’t be hard to find us.