The public debate was convened in order to allow the University community to air its views, and express any concerns or critiques of the divestment proposal. The event saw an overwhelming majority of support for divestment, with no real counter-arguments surviving the two hour debate. Of over 250 people attending the debate, 91% voted in favour of divestment, 7% voted against and 2% were undecided. The community has been consulted, and it has spoken.
Tomorrow's deadline is significant because, 6 weeks after the debate, it comes after an Investment Group meeting last week, and a Finance Committee meeting today. It also falls right before the UN COP21 summit in Paris which begins on Monday. Released tomorrow, a public announcement of a commitment to divest by the University would have the greatest effect.
The good news is that the finance managers, on the whole, seem to be genuinely working towards holding a fossil fuel free portfolio of investments, and have been liaising with their investment managers, Sarasins & Partners, on how to do this.
The bad news is, they appear to be deliberately keeping this progress quiet. Although they are investigating divestment, they are yet to release any formal commitments, and are not treating the issue of divestment with the urgency it requires. It would seem they are trying to figure out all the details for divestment, before making any kind of commitment. Whilst this is an honourable approach, we have absolute faith that full divestment will be possible and can be implemented quickly. What we need is an urgent public announcement on their intentions to divest.
The Investment Group meeting last week failed to come to any decisive conclusions regarding divestment, and divestment wasn't even on the agenda for today's Finance Committee meeting. After over two years of campaigning, we feel the extreme lack of urgency regarding this decision is deeply inadequate. This issue cannot wait any longer.
We have written to the chief financial officer on several occasions over the past few weeks, and particularly in the last few days, requesting an update on the situation and urging him to push forward for a public commitment. We are still awaiting a reply.
Our actions, along with the insistence that divestment be discussed by our student representatives at the meeting (the SU President and SU Development Officer), has reminded managers that we are still here, still waiting, and getting ever more frustrated by their delays. We have heard that Bob Rabone, the chief financial officer, hopes to speak with the Vice Chancellor tomorrow at a University Council meeting about the timetable for making a public commitment. However, we still await information and dialogue from the finance officer, and continue to see their actions as delaying tactics. We await any news with baited breath.
The message we hear from the University continues to be relative silence, with no clear signs of a public commitment to divestment. Our message to the University is that they must make clear their intentions, they must publicly announce a commitment to divest, and they must do this immediately. With all eyes on Paris, now is precisely the right time to make that announcement. This cannot wait.