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April 19, 2013

Divestment referendum to appear on SG ballot

Students from the UChicago branch of Stop Funding Climate Change (SFCC) have succeeded in getting a referendum on the SG ballot calling on the University to stop investing in fossil fuel–intensive companies.

The referendum, which reads, “Should the University shift its investment strategy to account for the environmental impact of oil, gas, and coal used by the companies it invests in?” was added to the ballot after both the College Council and Graduate Council voted to include it on Wednesday.

Third-year and SFCC coordinator Paul Kim expects the measure to pass, saying students realize the threat that climate change poses to their futures.

“A lot of students I’ve talked to, not just undergraduates but pretty much from all divisions, know that climate change is a threat to the whole world, not just for people in general but [for] themselves. I think people know that, and they know that these companies are part of the problem. So they’re willing to take the action that they see fit to fix the problem,” he said.

He sees the passage of the referendum as a significant step in SFCC’s fight.

“I think it will be pretty much one of the clearest signals available that we have the backing of the student body on this issue, that it is a pressing student concern, and that students are concerned for their futures,” he said.

Kim is hopeful that SFCC will ultimately get the University to divest from fossil fuel–intensive industries, but cautioned that it might take some time.

“We see this referendum as another step, I would say, in raising student awareness about the issue. We’re prepared to go at it for a long time if that’s what it takes because it’s important, and I think worthwhile things don’t come in a year,” he said.

A similar referendum, to create a Socially Responsible Investment Committee that would advise the University on its investment strategy, passed with an overwhelming majority two years ago but was never implemented. Kim said that SFCC has studied that campaign and hopes to avoid a similar fate by keeping up engagement if the referendum passes.

“I can’t think of any important social movements that were won in a couple of years. So I don’t see that as any reason to stop. I think we’ll have to work hard, but it’ll take as long as it takes.”

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