Students Camp out at Melbourne University Demanding Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Over 30 students and alumni have staged a campout on the University of Melbourne Chancellery lawn to protest the University's continued investment in fossil fuels. The campout is the boldest action to date that the divestment group Fossil Free Melbourne University have taken in the three years of their campaign.
“The University has told us that they need more consultation to make their decision, but this is just a stalling tactic,” said Master of Environment student Anastasia Gramatakos. “Climate change is happening now, they need to listen to what the university community has been telling them for the past three years and start acting on climate change. We feel that we have no choice but to escalate.”
At 7:15am this morning, students and alumni began setting up their tents on the lawn adjacent to the Chancellery building. Security guards objected to the display, but were not able to stop the students who completed the set-up within thirty minutes. The campout will be providing divestment workshops as well as skill sharing activities and has been attracting the attention of passing staff and students all morning.
In three years of campaigning, the students have held referendums, rallies, and forums to engage students, staff and the university council to promote divestment. Since late 2015, the group have been engaging with the University’s Sustainability Executive to push for divestment via formal pathways. However, in a meeting conducted last Thursday between Fossil Free MU members and Chief Financial Officer Alan Tait, Tait reiterated the university's stance that they would not be committing to divestment.
“Fossil Free MU is entitled to expect the University of Melbourne to lead in the divestment movement, and they are entitled to be impatient,” said Professor of Social and Political Science Robyn Eckersley. “This is their future.”
At just over $1 billion, the University of Melbourne endowment is one of the largest in the country. The university has not divulged what percentage of the endowment is invested in these 200 fossil fuel stocks.
Students are requesting that the University immediately freeze new investments in the 200 corporations that hold the largest coal, oil, and gas reserves and then phase out all investments in these corporations over the next five years.
The current escalation campaign is part of a national fossil fuel divestment effort that is taking place at seven universities across the country, including the Australian National University, The University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology, The University of Sydney, and Monash University. Three universities, the University of Sydney, Monash University and the Australian National University, have already made partial divestment commitments, and Swinburne University is in the process of seeking an investment fund that can provide a fossil free portfolio.