This is an op ed written by Jessie Kinsley, an organizer with Brandeis Climate Justice and a 2019 Divest Ed Fellow. It was originally published in The Brandeis Hoot.
Last semester, the Brandeis Board of Trustees voted to enact a 3-year suspension of all fossil fuel investments and promised to revisit the idea of full divestment after reviewing the results of the suspension. This decision represented a crucial win for the student body and Brandeis Climate Justice’s 7-year long fossil fuel divestment campaign, but the aftermath of the vote left many to wonder about the future of the campaign. Amongst the excitement of the first major response from the Board of Trustees lies a very concerning question for the student body: do we need to push for full divestment during this 3-year suspension period? The answer is plain and simple— absolutely.
Although many students might be tempted to encourage patience during this intermediate period, it’s important to note that patience is no longer an option when considering our planet’s current state. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in October 2018 validates this sentiment, warning that we have 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate conditions by introducing unprecedented changes to our society. When considering a 12-year time frame, introducing a 3-year suspension period is not only conservative, it is downright dangerous.
It’s also important to note that many other universities’ divestment campaigns have capitalized off of partial divestment wins. Take UMASS Amherst, which received partial divestment in December 2015 when the university divested $400,000 from the coal industry, only to win full divestment in May 2016. When Brandeis’ divestment campaign first started, student activists were ridiculed by the student body and the Board of Trustees as being too extreme, and now we have a board of trustees with divestment on their minds and 39 student organizations that have backed the campaign. More fuel to the fire, please.
And just so we’re clear here, divestment works. In fact, Brandeis has done it before. In May 1986, Brandeis divested $1.6 million from companies operating in South Africa as a part of the global Anti-Apartheid movement. This movement was critical in the success of 1994 when South Africa achieved majority rule through free and fair elections, where non-white citizens were given the right to vote. But this only happened because activists demanded their institutions take a stand against South Africa’s unjust regime. In holding their school accountable, past Brandeis students were able to force their institution to reflect student values. Current students now have the same opportunity in fighting climate change with divestment.
Look, we won a 3-year suspension from fossil fuels because we demanded it. If we let our administration off the hook during this time we will not win divestment: the administration will revert back to what is standard— monopolizing off of climate change and the consequences of it. It is our job as students to realize our power and take down an industry that has historically taken advantage of marginalized communities and continues to prioritize profit over human lives. We do not have any time to waste in solving this climate crisis and frankly, I’m tired of waiting.
Note: for any students interested in supporting Brandeis’ divestment campaign, Brandeis Climate Justice meets every Thursday at 8 pm in Pearlman 113.