Guest Post from Jenny Godwin, Undergrad at Western Washington University
The sun is shining and Divest Western Now’s campaign has had a number of fist pump moments just in the past four days and the buildup itself has lifted our spirits! As we all know, it’s easy to get bogged down in the process – requesting forms, scheduling meetings, giving presentations – it can feel like no one in power is listening to our demands or worse, that we’re being placated as students “jumping through the hoops.”
These past few months we’ve flyered our campus and networked with alumni, had breakfast with Foundation Board members and put off homework to make creative signage and screen print orange shirts until the sun came up. We don’t have a YES yet, but it’s feeling achievable and the questions are flying from all the avenues we’d hoped. We’re getting noticed.
March to the train tracks post-rally Saturday. These tracks are proposed to carry crude and coal by rail in the coming years.
After nearly 18 months of work since Divest Western blossomed out of Students for Renewable Energy in November 2012 following Bill McKibben’s very first “Do the Math” tour in Seattle, things came full circle with Bill visiting our campus for the Alumni Association’s Back to Bellingham weekend. A dozen Divest Western members met with Bill last Friday night to give updates on the campaign so far, and there was already a lot of updating to do! Our May letter deliveries – 6 in all – put handwritten letters from students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members into the hands of President Bruce and the Foundation Board. There were 75 in all – this same hefty stack present at the table during the WWU Foundation Board’s meeting.
At this meeting divestment was a prominent agenda item after the Associated Students’ unanimous March vote to officially recommending divestment to the Foundation. Divest Western members were not able to attend, but AS President Carly had 15 minutes of presentation time to run through the campaign’s progress so far and presented our 2 minute video summary: Divestment Short.
Though a YES right then and there would have been beyond wonderful, we hadn’t hoped for that yet. The news was pretty great anyway: the meeting went an hour overtime with all the discussion and two important dates were set. The Board arranged for a “listening session” on June 3rd, where students and Foundation Board members will have two hours of roundtable discussion time, a chance we hope to get down to the nitty-gritty, investigating case studies, re-investment options and identifying the discussions that would come up next with CommonFund, our university’s investment manager. At the summer Foundation Board retreat on June 16th/17th the goal for creating a divestment timeline moving forward – towards the December timeline we’ve made as our firm ask – has been set. Can we get a yeah, yeah?
Saturday morning Eddy and I met for breakfast with Foundation Board members, Bill McKibben, Jill from our local 350.org chapter and the Dean of Huxley Environmental College. We swapped questions and concerns over coffee. The rest of the crew was on campus early during Back to Bellingham to gather signatures from supporters and alumni pledging to withhold donations to the Foundation until WWU agrees to divest. Over 500 signatures were collected before and during the 4-6pm rally and Bill’s divestment shout-outs during his 3pm talk lead a large group to our Rally for a Fossil Free Future in the PAC plaza afterwards. The picture taken from the WWU library across the street (see below) kicked off the rally, with nearly a dozen speakers following – diverse groups united around addressing the inequalities of fossil fuel dependent world we face. This speakers included Farmworkers fighting for union wages and removing petroleum-based pesticides from their workplaces, Lummi nation members speaking to the sacredness of their tribal lands proposed for Cherry Point Coal Terminal development, oil train activists and student speakers. Energy was high and the march to the tracks picked up more supporters along the way.
Monday afternoon, a core group of Divest Western members and both the current and future Associated Students presidents met with President Bruce and Stephanie Bowers, executive director of the Foundation. Bruce praised the letters he’d read and suggested creating a further meeting next Fall to shepherd the discussion forward between students, Board Members and CommonFund. We’re pumped! See more updates on Twitter @WWU_SRE and Divest Western Now on Facebook. (Washington friends, we’ll be in touch soon. It’s time for some more cross-school collaboration!)