On the morning of May 17, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla released a statement in support of fossil fuel divestment on his blog.
“I stand by our students who are calling for fossil fuel divestment and support their aims,” Khosla wrote. “I am pleased to support the incredible efforts the [University of California] has already made toward tackling climate change and providing leadership and solutions that we will all depend on.”
This declaration comes after Chancellor Yang of UC Santa Barbara, Chancellor Blumenthal of UC Santa Cruz and interim Chancellor Hexter of UC Davis issued similar statements in solidarity with the Fossil Free UC movement this past week.
Chancellor Yang’s breakthrough statement came after a three-day-long sit-in by 350 students at UCSB’s campus administrative building Cheadle Hall along with the endorsement of over 25 faculty members. The sit-in was also a way to call on Regent Sherman, chair of the UC Investment Committee, to use his position to divest from fossil fuels.
Khosla’s declaration is another victory for the UC-wide campaign for fossil fuel divestment, Fossil Free UC. It has been driven by students, staff and faculty across the UC campuses since 2012.
Students from the Student Sustainability Collective, an independent Associated Students Commission that works on campus policy surrounding sustainability, met up with Khosla in March to discuss UC San Diego’s position on fossil fuel divestment.
Muir College sophomore Aya Rosenfeld, co-director of Fossil Fuel Divestment at the SSC, felt disappointed that Khosla was unwilling to be the first chancellor to make a statement.
“[Khosla] was reluctant to offer his public support because he felt doing so would undermine the decisions of the higher-up administrators,” Rosenfeld told the UCSD Guardian. “He also mentioned that because no other chancellors had released a statement of support, there was no precedent for him doing so. He also offered to speak to the chief investment officer on our behalf, but we’re not sure if he actually did.”
In light of the Board of Regents meeting from May 16 to May 18, students from the SSC decided to send a statement urging Khosla to take a public stance on the issue. A collaboratively written statement by UC San Diego students Sixth College junior Natasha Gunawan, Warren College sophomore Bryant Jew, Muir College senior Mukta Kelkar, Muir College sophomore Kathryn Link-Oberstar and Muir College sophomore Aya Rosenfeld was sent to the office of the chancellor. They gathered signers of support from various offices around campus, such as the Associated Students Office of the President, Environmental Justice Affairs and External Office as well as student organizations like Ellie’s Garden and UCSD Surfrider.
Kelkar, the other co-director of Fossil Fuel Divestment at the SSC, conveyed the importance of Khosla’s statement in the context of the University of California’s climate work.
“I’m really excited to see Chancellor Khosla stand with the students and faculty of UC San Diego and support UC-wide fossil fuel divestment,” Kelkar told the Guardian. “As a university that prides itself on its climate research and sustainability efforts, it’s important that UCSD encourage the UC Regents to stop investing in an unsustainable future. Fossil fuel companies have too much political power in the United States, and UC-wide divestment would be a powerful way to fight that.”