A crowd of University of Washington students, many wearing trademark purple-and-gold shirts, on Thursday urged UW regents to divest the university’s investment portfolio of all stocks in Big Oil, Big Coal, and all companies comprising the backbone of the fossil-fuel economy.
Unusual for Seattle, it was a protest lacking in jargon and detailed in argument.
“We believe investment in oil companies is unnecessary, and will expose our endowment to unnecessary risk,” Kyle Murphy, a UW senior and political science major, told the regents.
The divestment effort is a brainchild of global warming activist Bill McKibben, and is patterned on a successful effort in the 1980′s in which universities, pension funds and other investors pulled money out of corporations that did business with South Africa’s apartheid government. “The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of apartheid and bring on an era of democracy,” Josh Cowgill, another senior, told regents.
With its student-led UW Farm and Campus Sustainability Fund, and widespread effort to reduce the energy “footprint” of its buildings, the University of Washington is a notably “green” campus. Its faculty is on the cutting edge of climate research and impacts of human-caused global warming.