At last night’s Associated Students Senate meeting, the organization debated the financial and moral implications of drawing divestments from fossil fuel companies to provide a more eco-friendly campus, amongst other issues.
The senate also discussed changing the Associated Students election process, as two senators proposed a plan to restructure election recruitment so campaigning would last only two weeks during Winter Quarter. In addition to other topics, student representatives debated the benefits and drawbacks of oil company divestments, while also measuring the fiscal downside to divesting from companies that emit fossil fuels.
Emily Williams, who acts as the statewide affairs coordinator for Environmental Affairs Board, requested the senate’s support in divesting from businesses with larger carbon footprints.
Williams said the board is pursuing the support A.S. since they plan to take their proposal to the Board of Regents. She said it is necessary for the senate to set an example in such environmental efforts since UCSB holds such a strong reputation as a ‘green’ campus’.
“It is almost hypocritical, in a way, for us to be invested in fossil fuels,” Williams said.
Raul Martinez, chair of Finance Board, questioned the fiscal impact of EAB’s proposal, saying it is inevitable the university turn to these companies.
“Companies, firms, non-profits — they all have investments in portfolios and most of them have chairs in Exxon or Mobile. The reason is because it pays dividends,” Martinez said. “If you don’t have a company that pays that kind of dividend … that money needs to come from somewhere.”
In fact, Martinez said such financial losses could translate into higher costs for students.
“So either there are going to be cuts, or tuition is going to increase, or whatever they want to do,” Martinez said. “Universities need revenue now more than ever.”
As the discussion wore on, off-campus senator Alex Choate asked how the senate could find the best of both worlds.
“So I was wondering — is there another away that we can incorporate this, remaining socially responsible?” Choate said.
In response, Martinez said senate members should take concerns for human rights into greater account than environmental concerns.
“I’d rather be invested in companies that are in oil and energy, so long as they don’t violate human rights,” Martinez said. “This is going to sound really bad … but I’d rather be socially responsible to the students than to the environment.”
However, Williams said ecological issues are equally important since they overlap with various other social issues.
“By degrading the environment, it affects frontline communities,” Williams said. “People … whose water is polluted, who are experiencing more and more cases of asthma, of cancer — these are real things that are happening.”
The plan would not be costly since the UC Regents would ensure transitional costs not reach the pockets of students, according to Williams.
Off-Campus Senator Kaitlyn Christianson disagreed, saying past Regents decisions have not represented students.
“I am going to have to disagree with you a little bit when you say that the regents prioritize the students first,” Christianson said.
Without reaching any conclusion regarding the divestments, senators shifted their focus toward A.S. elections.
Senators Tuquan Harrison and Hayley Gilbert proposed a plan to restrict the elections recruitment period to two weeks to allow for more “transparency.”
However, some senators said restricting recruitment time would make it more difficult for party members to find the most qualified students, amongst other concerns.
The senate agreed to table the bill for one week so they could eventually reach a more informed decision.
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of January 31st, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.