Fossil Free Stanford holds protest rally as Hennessy speaks in MemChu

April 28, 2016, 1:20 a.m.

In response to the Board of Trustees’ Monday statement of refusal to divest from the fossil fuel industry, Fossil Free Stanford (FFS) held a protest rally Wednesday in front of Memorial Church.

Students gathered on the drizzling day, holding signs and singing original songs. They made their way to the front of Memorial Church, where President John Hennessy was concurrently giving his speech for the “What Matters to Me and Why” series.

As attendees of Hennessy’s talk passed through the doors of Memorial Church, they received flyers from FFS members and heard voices singing, “We are the tide that will wash you away. And your denial won’t keep us at bay. No we, we are not going away.”infographic

(RAGHAV MEHROTRA/The Stanford Daily).
Members of Fossil Free Stanford gathered in the rain, singing songs to people as they left Hennessy’s talk (RAGHAV MEHROTRA/The Stanford Daily).

FFS members chose the rally’s location and time in order to juxtapose the University’s positions with FFS’ goals.

“Today, President Hennessy is giving a speech on what matters to him and why,” Hanna Payne ’19 said.  “And I find that really ironic, because we’re here to tell him what matters to us. By saying no, the Board of Trustees and President Hennessy pretty much told us that the thing that matters to us, which is climate change and fossil fuel divestment, really doesn’t matter to them.”

Last November, FFS held a five-day sit-in with the goal of obtaining the University’s commitment to divest completely from fossil fuels. The occupation ended with a meeting with Hennessy, who at the time warned that the Board’s Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR) would not approve divestment because “it has no background research.”

Five months later, the Board’s statement echoed Hennessy’s appraisal by rejecting divestment because there was “no demonstrated social injury by a company that substantially outweighs any social benefits it provides.”

Despite the negative response, FFS members believe the Board will eventually reconsider their evaluation of the issue. Many student speakers maintained that the Board should show accountability to the Stanford community.

“They’ll reconsider because there is a moral imperative for them to reconsider,” Yari Greaney ’16 said. “There is an overwhelming support from students, faculty, alumni for fossil fuel divestment. Who is the Board accountable to? They need to respond to the voices of the Stanford community.”

Many students also reaffirmed their support of the divestment movement by pledging to withhold their donations to Stanford until the University divests completely from fossil fuels. Currently, there have been 350 signatories to this pledge.

“There is the pledge to withhold petitions which is growing in a big way with this statement from the Board,” Greaney said. “We’ve seen a quick increase in the number of people who are pledging to not donate to Stanford.”

Regarding the Board’s proposed creation of a climate task force, FFS remains skeptical of its impact but acknowledges the possibility for it to be a supplementary measure.

“We believe that there is a lot Stanford can do that will complement divestment,” Greaney said. “But there is nothing that will replace divestment.”

Although the Board’s statement thanked FFS for their work on this issue, Pablo Haake ’19 ended the first half of the rally by stressing to participants that their work was not over.

“They seem to believe that saying no to divestment will kill our movement – that the discussion is over,” Haake said in his address. “I look around at your faces, and I see a different story.”


Contact Ariel Liu at [email protected].

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