Timeline of fossil fuel divestment campaign at Gonzaga
Campaigning for divestment at Gonzaga is not new. Students in the 1980s spent four years campaigning for Apartheid divestment. (More on Apartheid divestment movement at Gonzaga in the 1980s here.)
2020 Spring – On February 13th, students around campus gathered as Fossil Free Gonzaga rallied in front of the Hemmingson center demanding divestment of fossil fuels from the university. With growing student concern for the increasing climate crisis around the globe, this successful event increased awareness of the movement. As Fossil Free Gonzaga students eagerly continue to push for the divestment of fossil fuels, none could have expected the drastic shift that would take place over the course of a few weeks. On March 11th 2020, The World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Quickly students and faculty on campus began to make immediate changes to put the safety of the community, the students, and faculty first. As classes moved online and in-person contact became obsolete, Fossil Free Gonzaga faced an unexpected shift to the end of the year. Although COVID-19 became a looming presence among the community, the students of Fossil Free continued to meet and push for divestment, even with the challenges of a pandemic. On earth day, the students hosted a virtual web seminar, which was a huge success. Staff and students engaged via zoom in a discussion for the vision of a sustainable and equitable campus. As students await instruction on the return to campus in the fall, Fossil Free continues to push hard with the necessary need for divestment of fossil fuels during a pandemic directly affecting the respiratory system. Now more than ever, global recognition is taking place at the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, environmental injustice, and Fossil Fuel exposure. The fight for divestment continues!
2019 Fall – As the national and global push towards divestment intensifies, efforts at Gonzaga follow suit. On September 20th, 2019, Fossil Free Gonzaga lead a group of over 250 Gonzaga students and faculty to join with the Spokane Climate Strike. The day was a huge success, as it showed how important the climate crisis is to members of the Gonzaga community. With record turnout at club meetings and furthered campus recognition, the group hopes to induce continued pressure on the board of trustees, in hopes of aligning our endowment with our university mission. The fight continues, and the group shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The struggle for divestment continues! Contact us to join the effort.
2015-2016 Students and faculty first started discussing fossil fuel divestment and Gonzaga’s endowment in the fall of 2015. After informal discussions with the administration, there was a meeting on divestment with the student leader, Carrie Herrman, professor Brian G. Henning, Director of Sustainability, Jim Simon, Associate VP for Finance Joe Smith, and President Thayne McCulloh. The frank and fruitful discussion focused on Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria used to invest Gonzaga’s endowment. At that meeting, Dr. McCulloh invited Jim Simon and GEO to host a series of lectures on campus in the 2016-2017 school year. President McCulloh also invited Dr. Henning to write a white paper that was then shared with Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees in their spring 2016 meeting. You can find a pdf of the document here.
2016-2017 Thanks to the urging of the student divestment campaign, Gonzaga’s Board approved the purchase of a tool to determine how “dirty” Gonzaga’s endowment investments are. The analysis was completed in the summer of 2016 and the President was briefed in the fall of 2016. The Investment Committee of the Board was then briefed by President McCulloh. As a result of that meeting, the Board asked Joe Smith, Associate VP for Finance, to share the results of the analysis with the community, which he did in two venues in February of 2017. According to Smith, the MSCI analysis revealed that, of the portion of Gonzaga’s endowment analyzed, only 4.4% of Gonzaga’s portfolio is in fossil fuel related stocks (approximately $3.8 million). The analysis also revealed that, since these fossil fuel stocks are often part of mutual fund holdings, more than 4.4% would be affected by divestment.
- In February of 2017 Drs. Henning and Gordon made a presentation on behalf of the faculty divestment campaign to the Faculty Senate. Their written testimony can be found here. As of the end of the spring term 2017, 33% of all faculty had added their signature in support of the divestment resolution. The list of faculty signatories can be found here. More than 450 people have signed the student petition, which can be found here.
- On May 1, 2017 the Gonzaga Student Body Association (GSBA) Senate voted nearly unanimously in favor of the Fossil Fuel Divestment resolution (22 yes, 1 no, 2 abstain). The official wording of the GSBA resolution can be found here. See the press release here. See Spokesman-Review coverage here.
2017-2018 After a year of deliberation, conversation, and research, the Gonzaga Faculty Senate voted in favor of the resolution and an attached amendment on April 4, 2018. In May the Staff Assembly Executive Council adopted statement in support of the student divestment campaign.
2018 December – The Gonzaga Board of Trustees voted unanimously to not divest from fossil fuels and continue its decision to seek to profit from the sale of the fossil fuels causing climate change. Find the Student FFG Campaign response here and the Faculty FFG Campaign response here. See more on our blog here.