Friday, April 10, 2020

Divestment day rally calls for MSU to end fossil fuel investments

February 17, 2020
<p>A protestor speaks to an audience during a divestment day protest outside of the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 14, 2020. </p>

A protestor speaks to an audience during a divestment day protest outside of the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 14, 2020.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Students across 50 college campuses demanded their respective universities cut investments in the fossil fuel industry for Global Divestment Day Feb. 14 – Michigan State’s Divestment Campaign hosted a rally outside of the Hannah Administration Building and similarly voiced their demands to the MSU Board of Trustees.

Additionally the night before they released a banner and painted the Rock to read, “MSU Funds the Climate Crisis.”

The banner was taken down prior to the Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning, and the Rock was painted over later in the day to promote College Gameday. 

“Yet another example of the University’s attempt to obfuscate its investments in the fossil fuel industry and silence student voices,” DivestMSU said in a press release. “By investing in fossil fuel companies, no matter if it is directly or indirectly, the University is complicit in the climate crisis.”

Their rally was attended by dozens of students and led by a number of speakers.

DivestMSU President Sara Millies-Lucke took to her speech as a chance to express her confusion and frustration with the university’s fossil fuel investments. Of the university’s $3 billion investment budget, $103 million were used to invest in Marathon in 2019. 

“They may try to distract us by putting up more solar panels and being proud that Michigan State is now in the nation's Top 50 Green Colleges. But the fact of the matter that it's an illusion, you can't be sustainable.” Millies-Lucke said. “You cannot be ethical if you don't put your money where your mouth is.”

In January, the Big Ten student body Presidents unanimously voted to demand their institutions freeze their investments in the fossil fuel industry, of these schools MSU is the only one in the Princeton Review’s Top 50 Green Colleges at No. 19. 

In her speech Millies-Lucke added universities that have recently committed to divestment, including Georgetown University, University of California, Smith College and Middlebury College. 

Additionally, Syracuse University has been committed to fossil fuel divestment since 2015 and is currently working toward it, and just this month Harvard University's largest academic division, The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has called on their university to divest. 

DivestMSU Vice President Jake Nessel said students he met with in Detroit had health problems induced by the effects of climate change. 

Jessica Diaz, an organizer for the Sunrise Movement, also spoke of her personal experiences growing up in Houston, Texas. 

She said as a child she remembers dark clouds in the sky from factories while living next door to chemical and oil refineries.

"When I think of fossil fuels, it's not like something far off and see this is something that's super personal. It's the poisoning of my people. And for those who I love and who I care for," Diaz said. "It's my childhood that's tainted with all of these smells and events that happened, that I knew were wrong."

The Divestment Campaign created a petition and they host weekly meetings to continue their efforts to end fossil fuel investments by MSU. 

“How can funding an industry that chokes our children's lungs, poisons our waters, burns our planet, destroys our ecosystem and forces families as climate refugees exhibiting social conscience?” Millies-Lucke said. “Do you understand my confusion now? The truth of the matter is that you cannot justify it, which means the MSU's administration is not adhering to the policy that they themselves created and swore to uphold. And that is why we are here today. Because our university is misleading its students and breaking its promises.”

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