This week, UBC professors are voting on whether or not they support divesting the school’s endowment fund of financial interests in the fossil-fuel industry.
“We hope to send a message that UBC really does value sustainability at our core,” said Julie Van de Valk, executive member of UBCC350, a pro-divestment group that initiated a push for the referendum that began on January 26. “We understand that climate change is a problem, and we are ready to address it.”
The faculty vote follows one in January 2014 in which UBC students overwhelmingly voted in favour of divestment.
Other schools in the region are taking similar steps.
At SFU, Simon Fraser Student Society and other student groups have published letters in support of divestment, reported Tessa Ramburn, a social media campaigner for SFU 350. Since then, she said, students have met with professors and that they’re optimistic a faculty vote will take place before the end of this semester.
“There are a number of faculty very active in the campaign, Ramburn added.
Speaking from the University of Victoria, Divest UVic communications coordinator Tristan Ryan said last spring professors voted 66-percent in favour of divestment. Students now have a vote of their own planned for March 3, he continued.
“That will be our chance to really show the depth and breadth of support for this issue,” Ryan said.
Jessica Lar-Son, president of the Kwantlen Student Association, said that body passed a motion for divestment in the fall of 2014. She reported that KSA— through activities such as participation in a “Day of Divestment” scheduled for February 13—is now encouraging Kwantlen Polytechnic University to do the same.
According to the UBC Investment Management Trust’s 2014 annual report, the university’s endowment fund is worth almost $1.2 billion, with 12 percent of public-equity holdings in the energy sector. SFU’s endowment fund is worth $281 million, and UVic’s stands at $357 million, including assets, according to those schools’ latest annual reports.