SEATTLE, WA – This week on May 14th the University of Washington Board of Regents will vote on coal divestment. On that day the commons near Gerberding Hall will be filled with the voices of students, the meeting room will be packed with activists all asking, “Whose side are you on?” It has been two plus hard years of campaigning and working, drafting resolutions and writing speeches, making progress and being “forgotten” since Divest UW has started. But all that work has finally led us to this point. We are being heard.
Being an activist on the UW campus is a peculiar situation. Seattle is a supposed hub of green thought and action. The University of Washington also considers itself a leader on sustainability. It is true - in collaboration with Divest UW the university has begun to increase investment in renewable energies and implemented an “environmental, social, governance” (ESG) investment criteria. It seems like the regents would expect us to be sated by these actions, but they are drops of water in the expanses of oil and dirty energy that UW invests in. On Earth Day last month an email was sent to the entire student body, which contained this phrase, “UW is committed to this voluntary agreement for universities to work towards carbon neutrality.” How can this be said while for so long the voices of those asking for the most significant step in this direction have been brushed aside?
Perhaps this vote signifies a change in the regents’ mentality and we are cautiously optimistic that they will make the right decision. Carly Marshall, Divest UW member, says, "Divestment from coal would mean that UW is doing its part to protect our future, living up to its own values, and committing to be truly boundless, not just as a PR slogan, but also in its actions.” It is time for UW to take action because maintaining the status quo sides with the oil regime that threatens the future. Member Alex Lenferna asserts, “Divesting from coal is not just about the climate, coal companies corrupt our politicians, and harm people here and now by polluting our water, air and soil, leading to millions of premature deaths every year and vast ecological degradation”
Whether Divest UW has to lead the university by the hand or push them begrudgingly forward, we will continue to pressure and advocate for divestment and action on climate justice. We have reached a crossroads where Divest UW will know beyond a doubt which side the university is on. We will not rest until we, the university, aligns itself with its supposed moral values and addresses the current climate crisis.