Divestment gathers faculty support

Kevin Killion, a Chico State student involved in the divestment campaign, attended the California State Student Association May 4. Photo credit: Yessenia Funes


A student activism class launched an online campaign last week to garner faculty support of university divestment from fossil fuel companies.

The campaign received 51 signatures as of May 7, said geography professor Mark Stemen, who leads the “Environmental Thought and Action” class.

The online survey asks faculty members to support the divestment of fossil fuel stock funds from of the Chico State University Foundation, a non-profit organization separate from the campus that handles donations used for scholarships.

An advisory measure in support of divestment was voted on by students in April during the Associated Students spring elections.

3,787 students voted in the election, or around 23 percent of Chico State’s total enrollment, said Nan Timmons, assessment and special projects administrator for the A.S.

A majority of those students voted in support of divestment, or 80 percent, according to election results.

As a result, the A.S. will submit a proposal to the foundation’s board asking them to look at their investment portfolios and consider divestment.

Sarah Pike, comparative religions and humanities professor, signed the online survey.

“If Stanford could do it, I think Chico State could follow in its lead,” Pike said referring to Stanford University’s recent decision to divest on May 6. “I also think that we are a university that is committed to sustainability and we’re a leader in sustainability and we should be a leader in divestment.”

Kate Transchel, Russian and East European studies professor, said she supports divestment and that universities should be leaders of innovation, not supporters of gas and oil businesses.

However, Transchel still feels cynical about whether the university will actually divest because she finds universities are emblematic of most corporations and look at short-term gains, ignoring long-term consequences, she said.

Support exists beyond Chico State professors. The California State Student Association, a statewide student association composed of officially recognized representatives from each California State University campus, voted in support for divestment on all California State University campuses during its monthly meeting May 4.

At the meeting, Kevin Killion, a student in Stemen’s class, and students from Humboldt State and San Francisco State, were able to speak during public commentary, shifting some California State Student Association disagreeing votes to abstaining votes. Killion was the only Chico State student who attended.

“Wow, things were looking good when we got 80 percent vote,” Killion said referring to the A.S. elections. “They’re looking a whole lot better now that not just is our Associated Students supporting divestment, but now all of the CSU A.S.’s are supporting divestment.”

A.S. President Taylor Herren said a proposal will be submitted to the University Foundation Monday to make it on its quarterly meeting agenda in June where the students hope to further educate the foundation on divestment and gain its approval.

Yessenia Funes can be reached at [email protected] or @yessfun on Twitter.