Earlier today I wrote about Oxford University’s impending Council meeting to discuss divesting from fossil fuels, a decision which would have been a big step for British education systems. Instead of voting one way or the other, however, the University has deferred the decision, claiming that the decision requires more consideration.
Unsurprisingly, the news was met with widespread disappointment, but somewhat surprisingly, in the wake of the non-decision, a group of alum have occupied an administration building in protest.
The University has released a statement, which includes the following:
“Last October’s Oxford University Student Union resolution has raised an important and multi-faceted matter which requires thorough consideration. The University Council had a good discussion of the issues and agreed to consider the matter further at a future meeting.”
The Oxford University Fossil Free Divestment Campaign has released photos of a university administration building with two alumni holding a sign saying, “Oxford Alumni say Divest from Fossil Fuels.” The occupation is in direct response to the University’s decision to defer until May the decision on whether to divest from fossil fuels or not.
The Divestment Campaign, supporting the alumni occupation, has issued “a statement of solidarity with the alumni who have gone into occupation over the issue of fossil fuel divestment.”
The statement comes only a few hours after the group’s statement regarding the University’s decision to defer.
“We are disappointed that they have deferred this important decision until a future meeting. This deferral represents serious complacency towards the urgent need for action on climate change.”
In addition to student reactions, a number of prominent Oxford alum have also spoken out.
“I don’t think universities should be training young people to craft a viable civilisation with one hand and bankroll its sabotage with the other,” said Dr Jeremy Leggett, an Oxford alumnus and solar energy entrepreneur.
“If the university does not disinvest from fossil fuel extraction I have decided to hand back my degree, in protest,” Sunniva Taylor, an Oxford alumna added. “This is not just a question of integrity for me. I want to use the privilege having it gives me to try and shake things up; to use my power to draw attention to others’. The University of Oxford still has a lot influence – nationally and globally – and so the choices it makes about where it puts its money really do matter.”
Speaking as the Oxford University Student Union President, Lous Trupadded his own condemnation:
“University Council has seriously considered the proposals and has decided it wants to get more information before making a final decision, most likely in May. I hope that in the time between then and now, students continue to make it clear that the university has a moral duty to the planet and to the Oxford University researchers who are leading calls to divest. My colleagues and I who sit on University Council will then be able to show that the significant student view and the undeniable scientific evidence must not be ignored. I also want to thank OUSU’s Environment and Ethics campaign for their work on this, which has proven that students can force the university to tackle these big issues.”
Whether any of this post-decision action and commentary will have any immediate impact on the actions of the University is unsure, and in my opinion, relatively unlikely. Nevertheless, the University of Oxford seems to have gone out of its way to create ill-will amongst its students and alum: Even a ‘no’ decision would most likely have been more well received, if for no other reason than it would have represented a definitive decision, rather than this half-hearted deferral.