Administrator Says ‘No’ To SU Divestment

Administrator+Says+%27No%27+To+SU+Divestment

Seattle University administrators told members of Sustainable Student Action (SSA) that the university will not divest from fossil fuel companies. In a meeting yesterday, administrators said they are uninterested in the cause and will not pursue a feasability study, according to members of SSA.

SSA took a moment to meet with The Spectator last night after they sat down with Connie Kanter, Seattle U’s chief financial officer and vice president for finance and business affairs, Provost Isiaah Crawford and Executive Vice President Tim Leary. SSA had been trying to meet with Kanter for months to discuss divestment possibilities for Seattle U. But it now appears those possibilities are slim.

“It was basically a ‘no’,” said SSA member Becca Clark-Hargreaves.

SSA went into the meeting with a couple of goals, including developing more conversation around direct investments and finally getting to conference with the Board of Trustees.

The divestment movement on campus has grown significantly since last year, to the point where the campaign to pull investments out of fossil fuel companies has the support of many of Seattle U’s students.

According to SSA, the same cannot be said of the university’s administration.

The administration was not willing to pursue divestment, or even look into a feasibility study, on the grounds that exploring it would imply a willingness to commit to divestment later on, which they weren’t interested in.

The administration told SSA that the school’s duty was to the companies that had invested in the university’s education. As it is, there is no moral obligation when it comes to choosing Seattle U’s investors. As discussed in their meeting, this means that, hypothetically, Seattle U could invest in anything from pornography to atomic bombs, and administrators wouldn’t find conflict with any moral obligation.

“Our social justice stops when we turn in our checks for quarterly tuition,” said SSA member Ames Fowler.

The administration also said that there was no economic reason for them to divest from fossil fuels. This response was the first official flat out “no” the SSA received from the administration, although the group says they weren’t surprised by this feedback.

Kanter and other SSA members talked about what kind of negotiations they could make in the future, not just along the lines of divestment, but rather investments of other kinds. Such offers are still being discussed.

Parts of their conversation touched upon the continuing lack of budget transparency in correspondence with divestment. Budget transparency is also an issue that the Student Government of Seattle University (SGSU) has been working toward, but it remains that, as a private institution, Seattle U won’t divulge what it does with its budget.

SSA requested that a forum be held with Kanter and opened to the entire university. Kanter agreed and a date is being set. In this type of setting, Kanter will be able to explain the university’s official position on divestment. Fowler said that another main reason for this forum was “out of respect for the students of this campus.”

In their debrief after the meeting with Kanter, SSA talked about how many students outside of their group were now committed to the movement, and keeping them in the loop was the right thing to do. To continue otherwise, they felt, would be like diminishing the momentum that the movement has accrued in the past year. By this point, the campaign has gained the backing of SGSU, who released a statement of their agreement earlier this school year. They have also garnered much more awareness and support within the student body through campaigning and events like the divestment panel a few weeks ago, which featured various speakers including previous mayor Mike McGinn.

SSA has not yet decided how they want to respond to this feedback from the administration. However, they realize that the rhetoric in their movement is going to have to change.