Group urges Sullivan to divest

A letter to President Tom Sullivan is the Student Climate Culture club’s newest effort to make UVM a fossil free campus. 

The letter urged the Investment Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees to reverse their decision made Dec. 18 to not divest their investments from fossil fuel companies.

“I genuinely respect the amount of dedication SCC has made to their cause and that their activist voice is an important one in making changes on campuses and in the world,” SGA vice president Jack Birmingham said.

The letter to Sullivan was sent Feb. 4, according to an Investment Subcommitee divestment summary.  

In the letter, Student Climate Culture club expressed a desire to pair with other members to push for divestment.

“We are aware that you set the Board’s agenda in conjunction with Chair Cioffi, and we are hoping that you will stand up for the community and put divestment back on the table, to give the Board the opportunity to hear out the divestment proposal,” the letter said.

Sullivan responded to the club Feb. 5 with an explanation of the committee’s decision.

“Substantial time has been devoted to discussing this matter fully in the monthly meetings of the subcommittee in an effort to take the time and gather the information necessary to perform proper due diligence,” Sullivan said in his response. 

“The subcommittee heard from many individuals who expressed a variety of perspectives,” he said. 

Sophomore Brian Thompson, a club leader and environmental science major, spoke about the recent letters.

The group has also made multiple efforts to give the Investment Subcommittee research and studies done around the country in support of fossil fuel divesment, Thompson said. 

“They never changed their minds and they kept with uncertainty and that’s all they went along with,” he said.

Thompson said that he felt the letter sounded like Sullivan couldn’t have an opinion of his own in his letter, and he was following the feelings of the investors. 

There is a public misconception about what Student Climate Culture club is all about, Thompson said. 

The club is trying to empower students to be activists and take charge of what is going on in this school.

The club is also now trying to work closer with faculty and staff to continue their push for divestment, according to their letter. 

Bill McKibben, environmentalist and founder of 350.org, is a leader of the movement and teaches at Middlebury College. 

He believes that UVM needs to put more pressure on the state government and the governor to divest. 

“I think the first ‘no’ is the moment when you need to change tactics and build a little more to put pressure on,” McKibben said. 

The Northeast has been in the lead so far in divesting. Vermont schools like Sterling College and Green Mountain College are setting the pace. But the west is starting to catch up.