In a student-wide referendum, 74% of Tufts student voters cast a ballot in favor of divestment of the university’s endowment holdings from the fossil fuel industry.
The student body was asked to vote on the question “Should Tufts University divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies provided that doing so does not adversely affect the financial status of the university?” The referendum was organized as part of an ongoing campaign to pressure Tufts’ Board of Trustees to divest its holdings in the top 200 publicly-traded oil, coal, and gas companies. The campaign, known on campus as “Tufts Divest for Our Future,” is part of an international movement for divestment spearheaded by the climate change advocacy group 350.org.
While the referendum cannot compel the Board of Trustees to take action on divestment, Tufts Divest for Our Future hopes to use their success as both a movement-building tool on campus and a point of leverage in discussions with university administrators. “We’re very excited to take the results of this vote back to the Board to show them how much support at Tufts there is for this campaign.” said sophomore Luke Sherman, one of the primary student organizers of the referendum effort. “The passage of the referendum shows that Tufts students value a just and sustainable future and a University that lives up to its mission statement.” Similar referenda have also been held at Harvard and Brandeis Universities, with a decisive majority of students voting in favor of divestment at those schools as well.
The students organizing the referendum held several events this week to educate the student body about divestment and raise awareness about the vote, including a screening of “Do The Math,” a documentary film about the divestment movement; a “speak-out” where student activists from various campaigns were invited to speak about how the divestment campaign dovetails with other social justice efforts; and a “teach-in” where a panel of students and experts discussed the divestment issue. “The idea was to inject a discussion about the climate crisis into the student culture,” said junior Daniel Jubelirer, who has been active in the divestment campaign since its inception last fall.
In addition to Wednesday’s vote, the Tufts Divest for Our Future campaign has run petition drives that have collected over 1500 petition signatures in support of divestment from students, as well as hundreds of signatures from alumni and faculty. Over the past year, students in the campaign have met with Tufts president Anthony Monaco, the Board of Trustees Investment Committee, and other administrators to discuss the question of divestment.
In May 2013, compelled by arguments in favor of divestment, the University created the Presidential Working Group on Socially Responsible Investment and Climate Change. The group, comprised of Tufts students, faculty, and trustees, has been charged with researching what divestment would mean for the University.
“We know that we still have a lot of work to do before the Board commits to anything, but the results of this vote have given us a lot of hope moving forward,” said working group member Lila Kohrman-Glaser, a junior. “This campaign is giving Tufts an opportunity to position itself as a visionary leader on the issue of climate change, and we believe that our administration will make the right choice,” Kohrman-Glaser added.
This was sent out as a press release as soon as we learned the results of the referendum vote.