In 2012, the campaign DivestBU launched when student a graduate student wrote to President Robert Brown expressing concern with BU’s investments in fossil fuels. Some early actions taken in order to raise awareness included giving out free cupcakes and taking photos of how sea level rise would affect Boston University’s campus. In the same year, a student petition was created and dispersed. By 2013, Students For a Just and Stable Future, the student-run climate advocacy group working towards fossil fuel divestment, was recognized as an official student group by the Student Activities Office.
An early initiative to raise awareness of how climate change and BU’s investments in fossil fuels could affect the campus.
On April 3, 2013, Boston University’s Board of Trustees created the Advisory Committee of Socially Responsible Investing, otherwise known as the ACSRI, to make decisions regarding the university’s investments. The ACSRI is composed of trustees, faculty, and students. The first issue that the ACSRI discussed was civilian firearms and manufacturers. In the meantime, on September 9, 2014 270 professors from Boston University submitted a petition urging President Brown to divest from fossil fuels supplemented with research on climate change’s adverse effects. This petition presented by the coalition of BU faculty was then taken into the hands of the ACSRI for consideration on December 10, 2014. By the end of the fall semester, the ACSRI and Board of Trustees announce that BU will not be divesting from civilian firearm manufacturers. Additionally, they come out with a detailed criteria for what social issues qualify for divestment of the school’s endowment from.
On March 30, 2015, a referendum is released as part of the Student Government election ballot, allowing students to have a say on the university’s fossil fuel investments. The results, which were announced on April 8, 2015, showed that of the 2500 votes, 75% of students were in favor of divestment from fossil fuel companies. On April 3, the ACSRI began holding several forums on climate change and divestment, discussing the economic and social impacts of climate change in these panels. In response, the students of Boston University held their first rally for fossil fuel divestment before the ACSRI forum on December 5 in front of Marsh Plaza, as organized by DivestBU. At the end of the Fall 2015 semester, the student group, BU SJSF, presented to the ACSRI at a meeting on where students stand on divestment. On top of this, an alumni petition is also delivered to the ACSRI in the fall of 2015.
Medical Campus students deliver their petition to the office of President Brown
In the spring of 2016, the Boston University Medical Campus presented its own petition to the ACSRI which contained the signatures of 183 Medical Campus students in favor of fossil fuel divestment. During the last ACSRI forum (also in the spring of 2016), DivestBU organized a banner drop reinforcing their message. On April 15, the ACSRI presented their recommendations to Boston University’s Board of Trustees. Some proposals included divesting from companies that continue to explore for new fossil fuel reserves and creating a Climate Action Plan, which would reduce the university’s carbon footprint. DivestBU then launched its conflict of interest campaign in September of 2016, in which the organization exposed four trustee’s close connections to the fossil fuel industry in order to highlight the appearance of conflicts of interest. On September 14, DivestBU held another rally consisting of approximately 80 attendees before the Board of Trustee’s decision was to be released the following week. On September 20, President Brown sent out an email to the community of Boston University announcing that it would avoid investing in coal and tar sands, but it would not engage in full divestment, as proposed by many.
On October 2, DivestBU begins formulating its strategy moving forward. Some goals that were accomplished include bannering with the logo “You wouldn’t call tuition ‘affordable’, we shouldn’t call BU’s decision ‘divestment’” and creating a petition urging President Brown and the Board of Trustees to reconsider divestment at their April meeting. In order to further stress the importance and urgency of divestment, DivestBU held an action on December 8 at the GSU plaza in which supporters marched and chanted down Commonwealth Avenue to deliver the petition with nearly 450 signatures gathered in only one week to President Brown.
In January, within the first 100 hours of Trump taking office as President of the United States, DivestBU held a Campus Climate Walkout and Speakout. This action was in response to the ignorant and dangerous stance of the new administration in regards to climate change and fossil fuels as well as in response to the lack of communication from President Brown regarding the petition we delivered in December. This action was in coordination with campus across the country who also held walkouts for divestment. Over 50 students and faculty at BU walked out of their classes and work.
The noise created by the walkout pressured President Brown to respond to our petition from the day following the walkout, January 24th, 2017. In his letter, he refused to add fossil fuel divestment to the Board of Trustees April meeting agenda, stating that the new federal administration’s policy changes were not grounds for reconsideration of BU’s fossil fuel investment policy. Since his statement was shared with us, we have been attempting to have a meeting with him to discuss his stance and argue that this new political climate is grounds for a new fossil fuel invest policy. As of February 10th, 2017, we have been visiting his office for 10 days in a row, attempting to schedule a meeting; however, he has refused with now explanation.