SFSU Divests from Coal and Tar Sands

Contributed by the Fossil Free SFSU Team

In one semester at SFSU, our divestment team sealed a victory that we only dreamed of when our work began. Our initial goal was to gain the support of our student government through a vote on a divestment resolution, but we accomplished that in mid April and with unanimous support. With another full month of school and the support of the student government, Fossil Free SFSU went back to the drawing board to see what was next.

lil banner sfsu          SF City Hall huddle

Word of the recent success of our divestment team spread across the country, we gained new allies and we began to train, plan and strategize with some help from our comrade and 350.org organizer, Deirdre Smith. Our sights were set high and at the pinacle of our campaign we were invited to become a part of an action team – Bill McKibben was coming to San Francisco! We knew we had to make the most of it.

orange suare sf sity hall          bill and city hall

We began organizing with the network we had built over the last semester, from on-campus organizations and student teams from more than 6 bay area campuses to off-campus groups and coalitions. We worked with faculty like, Carlos Davidson, to continue pressure on the president as we got into action. We planned our Fossil Free Day of Action at City Hall to hear from our City Supervisor, John Avalos, who had just passed a resolution to divest the city with the help of our 350 bay area allies. Of course, our team was there recording he and Mr. McKibben as they called on our institution’s leaders to stand with them in making California institutions leaders in divestment. It was a day of celebration and inspiring speeches that proved we were unstoppable. The divestment crew walked away with pride, a soon to be released documentary ($hift), and a satisfaction that maybe we’d already won and could finally start studying for finals. However, there was one last opportunity knocking.

It was not only Bill McKibben who would show support for our team that week, but the President of San Francisco State expressed his interest in divestment in meeting that went all too according to plan (Well, plan A, though Plan C was our best shot). We discussed the economic and political agenda of our University in regards to the school’s investment policy. I was honored with the duty of presenting divestment to President Wong and felt confident that all our hard work could convince him to divest SFSU. I used our “Social Responsibility Clause” in our school’s investment policy to strengthen my case, and the President was in full agreement that we must abide by that principle. Our request for the President was simple, get the SFSU Foundation (our board to reckon with) to put divestment from the top 200 coal, oil, and natural gas companies on the agenda for the upcoming Foundation meeting on June 6th.

We studied, we posted, we prayed, we tweeted, we waited.

We weren’t sure what to expect – we hadn’t had a formal response from the president – just vague promises. As it turned out, divestment was the central issue of the entire meeting! A handful of Foundation members lead the decision to immediately pull our school’s direct investments out of coal and tar sands companies. While oil was not included in this immediate action, the Foundation President created an ad hoc committee for those interested in pursuing a more comprehensive and long-term fossil fuel divestment. Multiple volunteers came forth and expressed their excitement to work on a project that can potentially set a trend for universities across the country. A common response from Foundation members sounded something like this: San Francisco is arguably the most progressive city in the world, it’s largest university should function in accordance with this title.

Victory was ours! San Francisco State University began pulling their investments out of dirty energy.

On behalf of the team, we thank all of those who helped us along the way and will continue to do so, on our journey to solving the climate crisis. This movement leading us to a future that we can be excited about!

On our way,
Fossil Free SFSU

sfsu team