Everything that happened at the Divest BU rally at Marsh Plaza

If you rushed to lobster night then you might have missed it

Did anyone else see the crowd of people singing, chanting and marching from Marsh Plaza to the BU Castle Wednesday night? If you rushed to lobster night then you might have missed it but yes there was a rally at BU.

But why? There’s no way a giant private university like BU could be corrupt.

In 2014 the BU faculty petitioned to divest BU and a year later students began the student group Divest BU. For the past four years, Divest BU and several other groups have been working to push for fossil fuel divestment and that decision has is being finalized this week by the 40 members of BU’s Board of Trustees.

Leading up to the vote this past Wednesday, Divest BU released a series of four videos exposing the bias ties between several members of the Board of Trustees and fossil fuel companies. One of the videos is captioned “Trustee Rajen Kilachand, the man who BU’s honors college is named after, is chairman of a fossil fuel company. His corrupt vote should not count during the Board of Trustees meeting this Friday” 

The other videos also make claims about: 

  • Kenneth Menges being a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Field, which lobbies for Chevron.
  • Richard Godfrey defending BP in court for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Bippy Siegal being the CEO of Raycliff Captial., which owns Crystal Energy Group, an oil and gas exploration company. 

In his Matriculation speech, President Brown said: “You can rally for divestment in fossil fuel corporations—this position is easy to take—but more important, will you commit to lowering your own energy consumption? Will you give a fraction of your income to improve environmental security?”

Even BU alumni are getting worked up about this issue such as Jeffrey Weisner who commented on an article about President Brown’s speech saying “This is a false choice. Ask him: why not do both? Is it right to stay invested in immoral and destructive companies because YOU have decided the students aren’t virtuous enough to make ethical demands of the university?”

But real quick, what is divestment?

Divestment is getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous such as fossil fuels. Fossil fuel infrastructure is often built despite the presence of abundant, greener alternatives and scientific warnings about the environment catastrophes that will inevitably result from more extraction. The infrastructure sticks around for a long time which makes it harder to transition to clean energy and fight climate change for future generations.

This Wednesday Divest BU held a rally at the same time that the Board of Trustees was meeting at the BU castle. Students, alumni, and administrators rallied in the center of Marsh Plaza and listened to several speakers including Nathan Phillips, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of earth and environment. Members of Divest BU such as Masha Vernik made passionate speeches claiming “The fight against fossil fuel extraction and its pernicious effects is too often shut down by the very political bodies that should protect us.”

After the speeches, Rachel Eckles and Matt Thacker led the crowd down to the BU castle chanting and left a box filled with their votes to divest while the Board of Trustees cast their votes.

Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees is not required to publicize any information about their meetings or what goes on during them. We do know is that the university has introduced plans to cut its carbon emissions 35 percent in an additional four million square feet of its buildings by 2020, and to cut energy use 10 percent over the five years ending next year.

Divest BU welcomed about 15 new members to their general meeting on Thursday, September 15 after the excitement of the rally. Meetings are held regularly on Thursdays at 6pm in the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism in the basement of the GSU. Students who want to support the cause are encouraged to come to meetings, like their Facebook page and sign the petition to divest BU.