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UC Santa Barbara’s Chancellor Yang Becomes First UC Chancellor to Call for UC’s Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Student Sit-In Results in Bold Action on Eve of Next UC Regent’s Meeting
SANTA BARBARA, Ca.- May 11 at noon in Cheadle Hall, the UCSB campus administration building, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn issued a statement on behalf of Chancellor Henry T. Yang both endorsing the fossil fuel divestment campaign, Fossil Free UC, and pledging to collaborate on the issue with fellow chancellors across the UC system. The public endorsement comes after 350 students maintained a 3 day sit-in inside the administration building, with the endorsement by over 25 faculty members of the action, calling upon UC Regent Richard Sherman to divest the university’s $2.8 billion currently invested in fossil fuel companies. The endorsement is the first of its kind from a UC chancellor on the issue of fossil fuel divestment and students expect it will help push the UC towards accomplishing the campaign’s goal of full divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
The chancellor’s full statement said the following: “I stand by our students who have been sitting in calling for fossil fuel divestment this past week and support their aims. I furthermore wish to acknowledge the professors and staff at this campus and across the University who deeply care about the moral, political, economic, and scientific imperative of moving away from fossil fuel dependency. Finally, I am pleased to support the incredible efforts the UC has already made toward tackling climate change and providing leadership and solutions that we will all depend on. In the coming week, I look forward to working with my fellow chancellors in support of a thorough and transparent discussion on divestment from fossil fuels as part of the UC’s approach to combating the climate crisis.”
Fossil Free UCSB spokeswoman and UCSB first year, Celeste Argueta, said “Chancellor Yang’s endorsement of our campaign is a historic victory for all the students who have taken part in the sit in and for the UCSB student community more broadly, making it clear that our campus will stand on the right side of history. Remaining neutral is simply not an option, it is high time Regent Sherman joined us too.” Richard Sherman chairs the UC’s investment committee.
On Monday, May 8, 38 UCSB students walked into Cheadle Hall and began a sit-in to pressure UC Regent Sherman and the broader UC Board of Regents. Over the following three days, Chancellor Yang met with campaign negotiators and together they agreed on the terms of endorsement. Students at UCSB have been campaigning on fossil fuel divestment since 2012 and the Fossil Free UCSB group is part of a larger coalition of students across the UC. The campaigns at UC Davis and UC Berkeley held similar sit ins last week. The rolling sit ins come during a wave of global action for fossil fuel divestment.
UCSB political science major and fossil free campaigner, Cassie Macy, said “Students showed up and showed their power this week because the fossil fuel industry intends to burn five times more coal, oil, and gas than is safe for a stable climate. Eighty percent of fossil fuels must remain below ground to avoid climate catastrophe but the UC continues to invest in companies whose business plan depends upon destabilizing the future safety and security of its students.” These numbers have motivated Fossil Free campaigns across the globe and led them to point to the 200 most polluting fossil fuel companies as those most responsible for climate change and pollution linked to cancers and respiratory diseases that impact society’s most marginalized communities first and hardest.
Chancellor Yang’s endorsement comes just four days before the UC Regents will meet at UC San Francisco, where students from across the UC will converge once again to take bold action and urge Regent Sherman to stand with students and commit to divestment. After four years, Fossil Free campaigners across the UC have become wary of such meetings but next week they will be eager to capitalize on the support of their new found ally.