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7 April 2015 (HALIFAX) — On Tuesday afternoon, Dalhousie University students, alumni and community members raised a ‘Shellhousie’ flag in the Dalhousie Quad to shed light on the problematically close relationship between fossil fuel companies and Dalhousie’s decision-makers.
The event targeted Dal’s latest $600,000 contract with Shell Canada, $100,000 of which is dedicated to starting the Offshore Energy Fund to fund student training related to offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
Divest Dal members raised a flag bearing the Shell logo intertwined with the Dalhousie crest as an emblem of Dal’s intimacy with industries fuelling climate change. Divestment campaigners are adamant: “Dal’s administrators and board chose the wrong side in the fight against climate change, and Dr. Richard Florizone and Dal’s Board of Governors are more invested in ‘Shellhousie’ than in a sustainable future for all faculty, staff, and students at Dal,” said Bethany Hindmarsh, a current student and Divest Dal campaigner. “Dal’s administrative bodies have shown that they are so beholden to that polluting industry that they are unable to make decisions in the university’s best interest. They’ve chosen not to divest from fossil fuels, ignoring evidence of the benefits of divestment as well as calls from the Dalhousie Students’ Union and Dalhousie Faculty Association.” For divestment advocates, the ‘Shellhousie’ flag is a visual emblem of this pattern.
While Dalhousie’s communications team have called Shell’s funding a gift, it is not merely a gift, but a contract that contains many restrictions for those who receive the funding and that decidedly commits Dal to further oil exploration.
“This shows a marked disregard for the carbon budget,” says Dal Environmental Science student and divestment organizer Emma Halupka. “Given that known fossil fuel reserves already contain five times the amount of carbon we can burn while still avoiding runaway climate change, students, alumni, and Dal community members are committed to challenging Dalhousie’s decision to invest in the climate crisis rather than in climate progress.”
When Dal’s Board of Governors rejected divestment in November, they did so not because fossil fuel divestment would hurt the endowment’s returns—as their research showed no evidence that divestment would harm returns—but because Investment Committee chair George MacLellan stated that the institution should position itself to receive funds from the fossil fuel industry. “This further proof that Dal has chosen an unacceptable direction,” Halupka says. “Dal’s decision-makers more concerned about their allegiances to the fossil fuel industry than they are about their responsibilities to students.”
Hindmarsh agrees: “Dal’s president has shown that he’s willing to prioritize the interests of a rogue industry at the expense of a sustainable future for the community we love. If the Board of Governors thought we would go away after November, they were wrong.”
Visit www.divestdal.ca for more information about the Divest Dal campaign, and follow #Shellhousie and #WhoseSide on Twitter for up-to-date photos and during the action.
Details on the 2015 contract between Shell and Dalhousie can be found here.
The full 2011 contract between Shell and Dalhousie can be found here.
Fore more information, please contact:
Emma Halupka, 902-225-3030 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bethany Hindmarsh, 902-209-3222 | email@example.com
We, the members of Divest Dalhousie, would like to express our deep gratitude to the Board and Staff of the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre and everyone on the Dalhousie campus working in fierce solidarity with those who are victims of sexual and gendered violence. We are further grateful to female members of the Dalhousie Student Union who have continually spoken out against misogyny and oppression in many forms as this issue has become increasingly publicized.
We are angered and disgusted by the misogynistic, violent and hate-laden posts by the DDS2015 “Gentlemen’s Club”. We hurt for the women who now are tormented by the actions of their peers. We owe our respect to the women in the dentistry program who return to class every day despite the challenges they face.
The violent posts came to light at the end of a year of upfront misogyny and sexism in mainstream media. In order to challenge misogyny in all its forms on campus and in society, perpetrators must be held to account. This is what the South House and broader allies are doing, and we love and support them for it.
Divest Dalhousie is arguably an environmental group, but we know that environmentalism goes far beyond the physical environment. We believe environmental justice is the most effective form of environmentalism because it directly addresses the systemic root causes of [environmental] destruction – colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy. Like colonialism and capitalism, misogyny is the result of an imbalance of power. Patriarchy is a system that enables men to assume power and control over the lives, experiences, and desires of women. This same structural division of power enables men to control an unbalanced proportion of natural and human resources, to centralize power in corporations and governments that destroy our environment and our climate, and to take away women’s access to the resources and communities necessary to shape their own lives and futures. We recognize that climate justice and gender justice are one and the same, and we can’t have one without the other.
At Dalhousie, as at most institutions in Western society, men hold a disproportionate number of positions of power. For example, the privileged membership of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors is predominantly held by white males. These men shape the way that the university liaises with corporations and governments, they influence the physical and cultural elements of campus life, and they decide how injustices like those in the dentistry school are addressed. The power of men to make decisions and shape the experience of Dalhousie’s students touches all aspects of the school. Without the experiences of women shaping these decisions, Dalhousie is doomed to continue to uphold patriarchal structures. That’s why the work of women fighting against these systems is so valuable – they’re forcing the administration to take experiences of women into account as they address the blatant misogyny in the School of Dentistry, and at Dalhousie as a whole.
We work hard to put women at the front of our group not only because women make up the majority of Divest Dalhousie, but also as a step to make up for the traditional underrepresentation of female voices in our society. It takes work. Groups and individuals fighting systemic oppression need to support each others fights for justice because patriarchy will not smash itself.
The misogynist comments that have become exposed recently are just one example of an attitude that is pervasive in many other settings and groups. Patriarchy is deeply entrenched in society and the deep roots are not always easy to detect. We must continue try to understand the different forms that such oppression may take in day-to-day life, including within our own group structure.
As we fight for climate justice, we stand in solidarity with those fighting for gender justice. The two are interwoven to the core and one is not possible without the other.
We are members of Divest Dalhousie, and we will continue working until Dalhousie University divests its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. On November 25th, fifteen members of our Board of Governors voted to continue investing in the top 200 companies with the largest carbon reserves.
They acknowledged that climate change is a critical issue of our time, and they agreed that bold action is required if we are to confront it. They then denounced divestiture as a means to that end, and decided that the livelihoods of future generations simply weren’t worth it. They stated that they were simply too committed to the benefits of certain corporate relationships to take the bold action needed. Not only this, but the Dalhousie Board of Governors also dismissed a call from Board members to look into this issue further. They have stated their unwillingness to act. Loud and clear.
The Board’s decision sent the message that they think that they know better than students and the academic community at Dalhousie. They were unwilling to heed calls from the Dalhousie Faculty Association, The Dalhousie Student Union, and the Kings’ Student Union. They failed to consider strong calls for divestment from the IPCC, Ban Ki-moon, Desmond Tutu, Elizabeth May, David Suzuki Maude Barlow, and countless more.
What did happen? The Board agreed to implement consideration of ESG (environment, social, and governance) factors and incorporate UN Principles on Responsible Investments into their practice, in addition to reporting on investments annually (which have thus far been covered by a veil of administrative secrecy). Both of these these positions were seen as radical at our university as recently as a year ago. We’ve changed the landscape of the discourse at our university, but this is not nearly enough.
We require our institutions to take genuine leadership. There are no cosmetic solutions to the climate crisis. We need our university to take the bold action it claims to inspire in its students. We do not want them to seem to have acted. We need them to act.
The Board of Governors has affirmed what we feared: that the bureaucratic and administrative systems to which we belong are presently unfit for rising to the challenges presented by the climate crisis. It is up to us to demand that our institutions respond to the challenge. If they do not, we must replace them with those who will.
The Dalhousie Board of Governors has given new life and agency to our work. They have passed on the responsibility of bold action to where we knew it always laid – with students, staff, faculty, youth and community members – with people, not with bureaucracies and administration. They have made a mistake, to be sure, but we are willing to work with them to right that wrong.
A university that says “no” to divestment is an institution that has been co-opted by the influence of the industries whose business model is dependent on the wreckage of our climate.
To make our ask crystal clear: we are calling upon our university to stop further investments in the companies who own the majority of the known carbon reserves. It is crucial to the survival of future generations that as much as 80% of these reserves stay in the ground. It is immoral, and it makes poor financial sense to invest tens of millions of dollars in these specific entities.
The Dalhousie Board of Governors’ disappointing decision only strengthens our resolve. It highlights the need to address the pervasive influence and social licence of the fossil fuel industry on our our campuses.
It’s clear that we must lead this change. As we struggle forward in the climate movement, it is clear that no one is coming to save us, yet it gives us hope beyond measure to work together to save ourselves.
Just two weeks after the Board’s failure in leadership, the Dalhousie Student Union voted overwhelmingly to commit to divest its $2.4M investment, solidifying students and youth in the position of real leadership.
We left the Board on November 25th ringing this message, delivered by a human microphone 150 strong:
“We have given you the opportunity to lead—on a silver platter.
Instead, you’ve chosen to side with a dying industry,
and that our future just isn’t worth it.
It’s clear that you’re no longer the leaders here.
We will take it from here.”
This is just the beginning. In the days leading up to and following the Board decision, we received hundreds of emails, videos, tweets and messages in support of the work we are doing from individuals, organizations, and divestment campaigns across this continent. Our numbers continue to grow, and our power also grows as we collaborate, build community, and expand our collective knowledge.
This “no” to divestment was a mistake on the Board’s part, to be sure. But let us be clear:
this has not been a stifling point for our resolve. It has been an ignition point.
On Behalf of Divest Dalhousie
PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release
FIRST CANADIAN UNIVERSITY TO VOTE ON DIVESTMENT
Members of Dalhousie University’s Board of Governors to call a vote on fossil fuel divestment; a landmark decision in Canada.
Halifax – Today hundreds of Dalhousie University students are gathering on campus as members of the university’s Board of Governors go to a landmark vote on fossil fuel divestment.
Years of work by the student group ‘Divest Dalhousie’, the campus fossil fuel divestment campaign, has led to this decision. Members of Divest Dalhousie have written a number of reports and have given several presentations to the Board of Governors Investment Committee about the financial benefits of divestment. This research was compiled with extensive economic education from Dalhousie and other universities.
In addition, the group has garnered the support of upwards of 2000 students and 120 individual faculty members, the Dalhousie Student Union, and the Dalhousie Faculty Association. The King’s Student Union and the Union of King’s Teaching Fellows from the neighboring University of King’s College have officially supported the campaign, and prominent community leaders such as David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and Maude Barlow have voiced their support as well.
“We’ve given the BoG absolutely everything they need to divest — student support, faculty support, and an incredible amount of research,” says Bethany Hindmarsh, a current student. “We expect nothing less than for our governing bodies to stand with the brightest minds of this institution and to do what is necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
This isn’t the first time divestment has come up at the university. Dalhousie University divested from South African companies in 1987 to combat racial apartheid. That was done on moral grounds and sent a signal to companies about the abhorrent injustice that was apartheid. Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has stated that we must act to confront the injustices that climate change poses for people around the world: “We [can] use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters. It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.”
Universities across the country including University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, and McGill University, are looking to Dal today as it makes this important decision. Divestment today it would pave the way for other universities and institutions to divest.
The BoG investment committee has written a report and a recommendation that will be presented today, and the BoG as a whole will vote to accept the motion. “We want the authors of that report, and every voting member, to know that any decision other than a decision to divest is a signal that they’re comfortable with complicity in one of the greatest injustices of our time,” says Hindmarsh.
Contact: Bethany Hindmarsh (902) 209 3222 // Emi Belliveau (902) 440-9399
For more information, BoG-IC reports, and petition updates, see divestdal.ca
PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
November 24, 2014
DIVEST DAL TO UNIVERSITY: “MAKE HISTORY OR BE VILIFIED BY IT”
Students urge Board of Governors to divest from fossil fuels
Halifax – In preparation for tomorrow’s vote on fossil fuel divestment, Dal students sent a bold message to the administration: divest now, or remain complicit in the climate crisis.
“If it’s wrong to cause climate change and wreck our future, then it’s wrong to invest and profit from that wreckage,” says Evelien Vanderkloet, member of Divest Dalhousie. “Today we’re telling the university, again, that if they want to live up to their claims of leadership in sustainability, they need to divest from fossil fuels.”
“If the university commits to divestment tomorrow, we’ll celebrate their commitment to effective climate action. If they don’t make that commitment, to me that’s them saying they’re comfortable with being an accomplice in the greatest injustice of our time.”
Over the last year and a half, Divest Dal has written a number of reports for the Board of Governors Investment Committee about the financial benefits of divestment. These reports were researched and compiled by members of the group with extensive economic education from Dalhousie and other universities.
“We’ve given the BoG everything they need to divest – economic arguments, moral imperatives, opportunities to say yes,” says Vanderkloet. Divest Dal is supported by the Dalhousie Faculty Association, the Dalhousie Student Union, and has over 2000 petition signatures. “If they don’t commit to divestment tomorrow, it will show they’d rather buddy up to a dying industry than follow the lead of Dalhousie’s brightest minds in calling for fossil fuel divestment – they’d be holding us back.”
This isn’t the first time divestment has come up at the university. Dal divested from South African companies in 1987 to combat racial apartheid. That was done on moral grounds and sent a signal to companies about the abhorrent injustice that was apartheid. “Let’s be clear: apartheid was a horrific and systematic injustice. We see climate change in the same light – it hurts people in every country all over the world, and exacerbates existing problems like racism and poverty,” says Vanderkloet.
“If Dal commits to divestment tomorrow it would pave the way for other universities and institutions to divest. If they really want fulfill the ‘bold ambitions’ they keep talking about, we’re handing them an opportunity on a silver platter,” says Vanderkloet.
The BoG investment committee has written a report and a recommendation that will be presented tomorrow, and the BoG as a whole will vote to accept the motion. “We want the authors of that report, and every voting member, to know that any decision other than to divest is a message to us and to their children that protecting our future just wasn’t worth it.”
Contact: Bethany Hindmarsh (902) 209 3222 // Emi Belliveau (902) 440-9399
For more information, BoG-IC reports, and petition updates, see divestdal.ca
For immediate release:
Dalhousie Faculty Association Urges University to Divest from Fossil Fuels
Halifax, NS – As Dalhousie University prepares to make a decision on fossil fuel divestment on Tuesday November 25th, the school’s faculty association has added its voice to the growing list of proponents. Dalhousie Faculty Association President Catrina Brown has sent a letter to the Chair of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors urging the Board to vote in favour of a proposal to divest the university’s endowment fund of investments in fossil fuel companies.
“Dalhousie is viewed as a national and international leader in environmental research, and we are proud that some of Canada’s top scholars in environmental science, environmental studies, sustainability and oceanography are DFA Members,” Dr. Brown said in her letter.
“With that in mind, it seems incongruous to us that our university should be investing its endowment fund in the fossil fuel industry, an industry which is largely responsible for the climate change which threatens our planet.”
The letter was the result of a decision by the DFA Executive Committee to support Divest Dal, a student-led campaign to make Dalhousie the first Canadian University to divest itself of fossil fuel investments. Divest Dal has called divestment a moral obligation, calling for the school to take action on climate change and act on environmental values it claims to hold.
Divest Dalhousie co-organizer Bethany Hindmarsh confirmed that the DFA executive endorsement represents a significant milestone for the Divest Dal campaign: “This endorsement, coupled with unanimous support for our campaign from the Dalhousie Students’ Union, demonstrates that faculty and students at Dal are united in calling upon our institution to live up to its own mission statement and its reputation as a leader in sustainability. We’re ready to work together to call upon the Board of Governors to make a decision that puts Dalhousie on the right side of history.”
The DFA agreed and pointed to studies showing that divestment would not negatively impact the university’s financial health.
“Shifting investments into more ethical industries could actually contribute to the growth of Dalhousie’s endowment funds. Given the growing public concern about the environment, particularly among young people, divestment could also help Dalhousie attract both students and alumni donations.”
Divestment is the process of removing investment holdings, in this case of the 200 oil, coal and gas companies with the largest proven fossil fuel reserves. There are over 300 current campaigns across North America calling for divestment at post-secondary institutions. While over a dozen universities and colleges in the United States have divested, to date none in Canada have begun that process. Dalhousie could be the first.
“We hope that the Board of Governors will make the right decision on November 25th and clearly demonstrate Dalhousie’s commitment to the principles of sustainability and social and environmental responsibility” Said Dr. Catrina Brown.
The letter can be read in its entirety on the faculty association’s website: http://dfa.ns.ca/news_items/dfa-supports-divest-dal-campaign
For more information contact: