Seattle University’s divestment campaign continues, this time with renewed spirit for the fight. According to Sustainable Student Action (SSA) member Delaney Piper, a formal letter regarding the future of divestment at Seattle U was released by SSA to the administration Tuesday afternoon. The letter was straightforward: students are not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Over a year ago, the issue of divestment was brought to the administration’s attention. Students from SSA started meeting with Chief Financial Officer Connie Kanter in January of last year. The movement grew past the club and spread to much of the student body and faculty.
After the SSA met with Kanter last month, the conclusive answer from the administration was that divestment was not a possibility for Seattle U because it did not align with the priorities or values of the university. For the administration, their obligation with regard to investment is to use their donors’ money most effectively-a goal they say would be stalled by divestment.
Administrators did say that they were interested in continuing their conversation about sustainability with the SSA, but as far as divestment goes, the door was closed.
The SSA was left to decide whether to continue pushing for divestment or try to pursue sustainabiilty through other avenues. For over a month, SSA has refrained from comment, but this week they composed and released an official statement briefly outlining their outlook for the future.
“What we’ll be saying is that we do not accept your denial,” said Piper. “This is not what we imagine fits in our mission. We are excited to keep working on this but we do not accept what this denial means. We are also frustrated with the implications of what the lack of ethical bounds on our endowment has. That really shocks us and we are not going to be satisfied until some moral bounds is put on our endowment; and we would like that to include divestment,” Piper said.
SSA member Becca Clark-Hargreaves added that the intention of the letter is to inform those who have followed the campaign. They will also reach out to external media and the alumni community.
“In this way, we also are attempting to build the narrative of our campaign, to connect people to what we are really doing so that people can become invested in what we are trying to do… it isn’t simply a campaign, but an actual fight,” Clark-Hargreaves said in a message.
Piper expressed interest in both continuing to pursue divestment and working with the administration on other kinds of sustainability.
“It’ll take both for a just transition,” Piper said. The SSA is not ready to give up divestment, but they also have students in their group very excited to foster a bond and conversation with the administration. “Divestment is not the only thing that’s going to help change the system,” Piper said.
“What we’ve been told is that this is a great opportunity for a really small group of people to really work on some great positive investments, some positive financial work,” Piper said of their anticipated conversations with the administration. According to her, efforts could include setting up ethical guidelines for investment or devising some negative screening procedures.
There is some fear from the SSA that the administration will not be as enthusiastic to continue their relationship if the group continues to push divestment.
The letter was delivered to administrators late Tuesday; The Spectator was unable to obtain comment from Kanter by press time. Piper says that the club is ready to confront their concerns—students are not willing to give up on divestment.
“I think that continued interest in divestment shows real student courage. I think that it shows commitment,” Piper said.
In SSA’s upcoming rally for divestment next week, Piper continues to speak on the importance of student interest.
“This is what we want, this is what our student body has wanted, this is what our student government ha[s] wanted, this is what our faculty have wanted, and this is not okay,” she said.
Over this past weekend, several SSA members went down to San Francisco for a conference on divestment with movements from other schools. “There are people who are fighting way harder fights than us,” Piper said, explaining how they met with other school campaigns who had also received rejection from their administrations.
“We are a part of a larger social movement that is very apparent and it’s going to be a force to reckon with…Backing down, that’s when movements fail… This isn’t just a fight for divestment, but this is a fight for investment in the world that I want to see; this just and humane world that I’ve been taught to look for.”