Rally-goers protest UCSD’s affiliation with ExxonMobil, call for a fossil-free campus

Rally-goers protest UCSD’s affiliation with ExxonMobil, call for a fossil-free campus
Photo by Sophie Nourbakhsh/ UCSD Guardian

Over 80 UC San Diego students gathered on the lawn outside Warren Mall on Feb. 15 to protest the university’s continued affiliation with ExxonMobil. 

The rally commenced at 2 p.m., concurrent with a career talk hosted by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, featuring Dr. Joseph M. Falkowski, a research associate at ExxonMobil. As rally-goers gathered around Warren Hall, holding signs that read, “Exxon oil off our soil,” and “Kick Exxon off campus,” the career talk was moved online.

The rally also called for the university’s immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry. In collaboration with the Green New Deal at UCSD, Students for Justice in Palestine, USAS, and Students for Socialism raised awareness about the university’s continued affiliation with these industries and the harmful impact on its students. 

“We don’t believe that UCSD should be partnering with companies like Exxon, especially [by] setting up its students to go and work for companies that are actively working to destroy our future,” said Green New Deal at UCSD organizer Megyn Horton. “We are giving UCSD our money to get a great education, and they are taking that money and doing these things with institutions that are contributing to climate change, social injustice, and genocide.” 

The growing pressure to cut ties with fuel giants like Exxon stems from the public’s distrust of the corporation. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are just some of many news outlets that have covered Exxon’s “downplaying” of climate change and its facing of a U.S. civil lawsuit for “creating a hostile work environment.” 

Furthermore, a 2023 analysis published in Science by Harvard researchers uncovered that Exxon has been aware of the impacts of fossil fuels on climate change for decades, with their model of carbon dioxide emissions projections from the late 1970s remaining fairly accurate to this day. 

Exxon’s refusal to address climate change, despite being aware of its effects, has called students to action. 

“We don’t want your fake solutions, we’re sick of your pollution,” chanted students as the crowd made its way through Library Walk, eventually making its way to Sun God Lawn.

The rally also featured other concerns for the university’s affiliation with the fossil fuel industry, a problem that many consider to be “intertwined” with other crises. One example, as SJP members noted, is the university’s investment in the U.S. military industrial complex. 

A student affiliated with SJP, who was granted anonymity upon request, commented on the importance of the university divesting from ExxonMobil. 

“Our university invests billions in the fossil fuel industry and the military complex, and that very military complex is arming and equipping Israel with weapons that are actively committing this genocide — and this goes against everything the university stands for,” the student said. “These protests are not just about us coming together, we actually need to … build these coalitions because we do have shared goals and are capable of making change.”

As for next steps, the Green New Deal at UCSD demanded that the university divest from the fossil fuel industry and investor-owned utility companies, ban research partnerships with these industries, remove all industry-affiliated executive members from advisory boards, and stop allowing industry-affiliated recruits on campus.

UCSD is not the only university where students have protested ExxonMobil on their campus; students from Brown University and Harvard University, among other institutions, did the same in 2022.

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Eru Ishikawa
Eru Ishikawa, Senior Staff Writer
Eru is a third-year Economics student who loves financial markets, Wes Anderson films, and oat-milk cortados.
Sophie Nourbakhsh
Sophie Nourbakhsh, Photographer
I'm a simple woman, Mrs. Fundamental like I play for the Spurs
Thomas Murphy
Thomas Murphy, Co-Webmaster & Associate Photo Editor
I work on the website and take-a the pretty pictures
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Millie Root, Photo Editor
Millie loves the way light reflects off bus windows, artisenal teas, and community co-ops. Join Millie on the journey of a lifetime to tell important stories with amazing photographs.
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