Students Reveal the Naked Truth of University’s Bum Investments
Eight University of Melbourne students have bared all with a cheeky message in the name of climate change at their campus this morning. The students climbed onto the roof of the iconic Old Quad building and stripped off their clothes to reveal the message “drop your assets” painted onto their backs and buttocks.
This message was directed at their university administration, who last week told students they would continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry.
“The planet cannot bare any more warming so we are baring all in order to see the change that we need,” said Master of Environment student Anastasia Gramatakos.
At 10am this morning, students stripped off their clothes to reveal their divestment message to a gathering crowd. They remained atop the building for 10 minutes before security asked them to leave.
The student group Fossil Free MU launched the fossil fuel divestment campaign in June 2013. 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.
“Rapid divestment from fossil fuels is a crucial step on the pathway to a safe climate future,” said Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. “Divestment from fossil fuels is therefore an urgent ethical and financial responsibility for all Australian investors and institutions – including universities.”
At just over $1 billion, the University of Melbourne endowment is the largest in the country.
Students are requesting that the University immediately freeze all new investments in the top 200 coal, oil, and gas companies and then phase out all investments in fossil fuels over the next five years. Students would also accept a commitment from the University that they are in discussions with the Victorian Funds Management Corporation to negotiate a fossil free investment fund, or that they are in the process of seeking an alternative fund manager that can provide this service, as Swinburne University has recently committed to.
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. Two universities, the University of Sydney 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.