Warwick Students’ Union (SU) sabbatical officers declared their official support for the ongoing Fossil Free campaign on Thursday 19 June.
On the same day that the SU sabbatical officers handed their letter of support to the university administration, students from across the UK stormed Universities UK (UUK) as part of the People and Planet campaign.
Amongst the officers were SU president Ben Sundell and postgraduate officer Lucy Gill who gathered to present their demands to Ken Sloan, registrar and chief operating officer.
The event follows the recent All Student Meeting motion, ‘Support the Fossil Free Campaign on campus’, which passed with more than 65 percent of the vote in term two.
To celebrate the occasion, the Fossil Free Warwick campaign held a Fossil Free fete with various stalls and activities that emphasised environmental, humanitarian and financial problems presented by the fossil fuel industry.
Sophie Monk, coordinator of the Fossil Free Warwick campaign and a third-year English student at Warwick said: “The sabbatical officers’ letter demonstrates how far the Fossil Free campaign has come in just one year.
“To move our money out of the fossil fuel industry is to remove its social license to operate, and to condemn the practices of a socially irresponsible industry.”
Miss Monk added: “Universities should be at the forefront of this, to ensure consistency with our Socially Responsible Investment Policy which explicitly commits the University to withdrawing its support from companies that cause environmental degradation and human rights violations.”
The letter signed by the sabbatical officers will be considered by the University’s Investment Sub-Committee at its meeting next term.
Peter Dunn, head of communications at Warwick, has confirmed that the committee will respond to the presenters of the letter once the committee has considered it.
Sophie is hopeful that the response will be positive: “So far the administration at Warwick have been cooperative with our concerns and are taking the demands of the sabbatical officers’ letter seriously.”
Dan Goss, environment and ethics officer at Warwick, agreed with Sophie: “Personally, I consider it a near certainty. It is really a question of time. The University administration have been amenable to the Fossil Free campaign so far. Hopefully they will recognise them as such shortly.”
Warwick’s Fossil Free campaign coincided with activities of the student pressure group, People and Planet, which confronted UUK for the second time over their refusal to engage with the issue of fossil fuel divestment.
Universities represented by UUK have an estimated £5.2 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry. The figure for investment in fossil fuels therefore averages at £2,083 per UK student.
People and Planet demanded that UUK make a public statement on the Fossil Free campaign group. They additionally asked for the fossil free divestment to be placed on the agenda for the vice chancellors meeting.
The Boar asked Nigel Thrift, the vice chancellor at Warwick, what Warwick’s stance towards the Fossil Free campaign was considering the University’s commitment to sustainable development.
Thrift replied: “It turns out to be more complicated than it looks. We work mainly through funds which have all kinds of companies within them, and finding ones completely pure in the way that one might wish is not possible. So one needs to think that through.”
Students across the country have been rallying behind the People and Planet campaign. Miriam Wilson, a Glasgow University student spoke to Ian Morton, the UUK campaign manager. She remarked: “I was surprised to hear the UUK Campaign manager speak so strongly against the campaign.”
“He told me he did not think we would win, but as the fastest growing climate change campaign in the UK we know that is not true. As we continue to gather momentum, students are planning to take more action on their campuses and beyond.”
Read more about the ongoing debate about whether fossil fuel is the way forward here.