ASG signs Big Ten resolution in support of divestment


Daily file photo by Jeanne Kuang

Northwestern students protest the university’s fossil fuel investments in 2014. On Jan. 25, Northwestern’s Associated Student Government joined the governing bodies of 13 other Big Ten schools in supporting a resolution calling on their schools to divest from fossil fuels.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Northwestern’s Associated Student Government joined the 13 other schools in the Big Ten in passing a resolution on Jan. 25 in support of university divestment on fossil fuels at the Association of Big Ten Students conference. 

The event is a meeting of student leaders from governing groups representing every student body in the Big Ten. University of Michigan’s Central Student Government introduced the initiative, which called on leaders at Big Ten schools to remove any investments in fossil fuels and find alternative sources of funding. 

The movement has taken place at universities across the country, with Syracuse University and Middlebury College among those leading the way with full divestment. Now, student governments throughout the Big Ten have teamed up to advocate for this cause, continuing the work of student activist groups on campuses.

Ben Gerstein, a junior at the University of Michigan and the student body president of the school’s Central Student Government, presented the resolution on behalf of his school. Gerstein said his goal for the legislation was to unite the Big Ten in favor of divestment, and to show support to student activists across campuses, many of whom have been working toward this cause for years. 

“When you’re investing in an industry that’s directly complicit in climate change, it’s important to look at the role of the universities,” Gerstein said. “ It’s really not appropriate for universities to continue to profit off of these industries and enable these industries to continue to profit.” 

Northwestern has over $49 million invested in fossil fuel companies that contribute to its endowment, according to a proposal for divestment published by Fossil Free Northwestern. The group presented their proposal to the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility in January 2019. It was approved by the committee, comprised of students and faculty who advise the Board of Trustees about investment decisions.

However, ACIR committee chair and Feinberg prof. Philip Greenland said he was unsure if the resolution would actually put any pressure on the Board. 

“Any action on the part of Northwestern is really going to be coming out of the Board of Trustees,” Greenland said. “Would it make a difference to the Board of Trustees? I have no idea. The Board of Trustees is a totally independent body.”

At the conference, ASG executive vice president Adam Davies represented the school. Davies, a SESP senior, said at the conference that passing the resolution didn’t seem to be a point of contention — it didn’t take much discussion before all the schools voted in favor of the text.

Davies said the choice to support the resolution was clear for them, as the issue of fossil fuel divestment has far-reaching impacts. They said they hoped the conference’s united stand on the issue would spur University officials to act on the topic as peer schools also faced similar pressures. 

“The first thing that stuck out was that divestment from fossil fuels is something that student activists, including Fossil Free Northwestern, have been asking for,” Davies said. “We’re a student government, and our responsibility is to represent the needs of our students. Knowing that so many of our students have been advocating for this, it was a clear choice for me to vote for it.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1

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