Divest rally at Oregon State University pushes for divestment from fossil fuels

Jason Owen

Student organizations in Corvallis are participating in a rally scheduled to take place on Feb. 1 at 3p.m. outside of the Memorial Union. The rally titled “Oil Soaked University: Divest”, suggests that proponents of the rally are OSU should not have a financial stake in the fossil fuel industry.

According to Luciana Leite, Ph.D.  in the Forestry Ecosystems and Society program, the rally intends to hold OSU accountable to its mission statement about environmental impacts.

“The purpose of the rally is that we want OSU’s policies to align with the values that they say they have,” Leite said.

Students have cited OSU’s mission statement as a source of conflicting values. According to OSU’s website, the mission statement is, “Oregon State University promotes economic, social, cultural, and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, our nation, and the world”.

Leite believes that her work as a student is integral to understanding the implications of climate change on various ecosystems around the world.

“I’m not fighting this because I’m personally affected — I’m fighting in solidarity with the rest of humanity, with non-human species, and ecosystems worldwide,” Leite said.

OSU Foundation is the governing body of Oregon State University’s nearly 1 billion dollar endowment. According to Leite, OSU’s current financial stake in the fossil fuel industry constitutes six percent of the current endowment.

OSU Foundation established an advisory committee to interact with stakeholders in December 2013. This advisory board is tasked with listening to concerns from the community.

Michele Charrete, a post-doctoral student at OSU studying molecular biology and tropical diseases is a member of Rising Tide Corvallis and decided to redirect his focus to studying the impacts of climate change on health for people in what is known as the global south.

“The university should take meaningful action involving divestment in order to comply with statements the institution has previously made, in an effort to confront the imminent threat of climate change,” Charrete said.

According to Charrete, there are multiple ways that climate change can be addressed and the opinion of students suggests that the only wrong action is inaction — the equivalent of continuing on the path we are already on.

“The people who stand to suffer the most from climate change are the people that have the least access to resources needed in order to provoke change. People with the greatest access to solicit change have a vested interest in a ‘business as usual’ approach,” Charrete said.

Another student who will participate in the rally on Feb. 1 is Saul Boulanger, a senior in political science. Boulanger is a member of Allied Students for Another Politics. According to Boulanger, more students should care about the OSU Divest rally.

“I encourage people to come because this topic is immediately relevant to all of us – if we don’t give this issue attention on our own terms now, we will be forced to focus on it later, and will have far less options then,” Boulanger said.

Boulanger joined ASAP because of his interests in social justice, social equality, and climate change.

OSU Divest, with a motto of “Students Engaging Tomorrow” is participating in the rally with their focus on progressive themes and making an attempt to ensure a better tomorrow.

Boulanger, Charrete, and Leite believe that it takes a group effort in order to make meaningful change. They believe that investments in fossil fuels should change.

“Rising Tide’s approach to this issue is a commitment to direct action – communities have to come together,” Charrete said.

Boulanger shares Charrete’s opinions about the need for a collective group effort in order to realize the changes they deem necessary.

“Change only happens when enough people get together and make it clear that change is what the community wants,” Boulanger said.

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