Divestment Activists Push Seattle University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

In 2012, students at Seattle University launched a campaign to get their school to divest from fossil fuels. In September 2018, after a long six-year campaign, Seattle University announced that it would divest from fossil fuels in its endowment.  They are the first university in Washington State to divest from fossil fuels.

In a letter to students, Seattle University’s President states, “As we prepare to welcome all our new and returning students to campus, I am pleased to share with you a significant decision by the Seattle University Board of Trustees in solidarity with students, faculty and staff in addressing climate change. [the] board voted to adopt both recommendations on fossil fuel divestment from the university’s Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) Advisory Working Group.”

Further, “The university will now move forward firmly committed (1) “by June 30, 2023, to fully divest the marketable portion of the endowment from any investments in companies owning fossil fuel reserves,” and (2) “to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the exposure to companies owning fossil fuel reserves in the marketable portion of the endowment portfolio by December 31, 2020.”

Banner drop at Seattle University.

According to the Seattle Times, “by 2023, Seattle University will no longer invest any of its $230 million endowment in the funds and securities of fossil-fuel companies. The university estimates that 6.7 percent, or $13.6 million, of its endowment has “exposure to securities of fossil-fuel companies, as defined by ownership of fossil-fuel reserves.

Sustainable Student Action 2013 divestment rally. Photo from Sustainable Student Action FaceBook page

Student organizers respond

This victory came with constant student pressure through direct actions, especially those that held our university leadership accountable and forced them to make decisions, not just study the issue. They did take us on a nearly 7-year ride of committees, working groups, and subcommittees but we kept pressure and looked to the victories and the pressing urgency of front-line communities and local organizers such as in Seattle and Tacoma. While the language of divestment they’re using is somewhat limited because it potentially leaves us invested in pipeline companies like Energy Transfer Partners, it’s as good as any other university has gotten so far and I’m excited for a group of experienced student organizers and the new members they bring on board to have time to focus on supporting other local environmental justice struggles.” Nicolás Cruz, Seattle University divestment activist

Matt Remle (Lakota) speaks to students and faculty at Seattle University about divestment efforts against Wells Fargo and the City of Seattle.

Throughout the years, students held demonstrations, direct actions, public awareness events, and applied direct pressure to key decision makers.

We are building a world that we might not ever get to see, so we will celebrate all the victories along the way. This campaign has been about how we leverage our privileges as students at private universities to support frontline communities. At the same time, I felt we as student organizers have also been transformed in our leadership and understandings of justice and power.” Monica Chan Seattle University divestment activist

For more information on Seattle University Sustainable Student action go here

by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks. Follow @wakiyan7

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