Nearly 60 hours into a sit-in staged by student activists, Chancellor Henry T. Yang has agreed to publicly endorse UC divestment of nearly $3 billion from fossil fuel companies, making him the first-ever UC chancellor to take an active stance in favor of divestment.
The students hosted a press conference at 12 p.m. Thursday in Cheadle Hall, where Margaret Klawunn, the vice chancellor of student affairs, read a statement from Yang signaling his advocacy for UC divestment from fossil fuels.
“I stand by our students who have been sitting-in calling for fossil fuel divestment this past week and support their aims,” Yang wrote in the statement. “In the coming week, I look forward to working with my fellow chancellors in support of a thorough and transparent discussion on divestment from fossil fuels as part of the UC’s approach to combatting the climate crisis.”
Fossil Free UCSB has been staging a sit-in at the administration building since 10 a.m. Monday. Posters and overnight bags cover the walls and floors of Cheadle Hall’s first-floor lobby.
Approximately 150 students protested Monday and almost 40 students stayed overnight, Fossil Free UCSB spokesperson Cassie Macy said. Organizers report that over 325 students have joined as of Wednesday night.
Yang reportedly met with student leaders at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday morning to arrange a meeting later that day. Fossil Free UCSB coordinators Theo LeQuesne and Claire Wilson have been meeting with Yang intermittently since Tuesday — once at approximately 3 p.m. Tuesday and again at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Wilson said Yang and student leaders have been “hammering out” the wording for Thursday’s statement, which she said incorporates his support of their five demands.
Fossil Free UCSB organizers did not want to release their list of demands until the press conference Thursday, but Wilson said the demands essentially ask that Yang publicly support the Fossil Free UCSB campaign by talking with other UC chancellors about divestment.
“UCSB is ready to be a leader in the UCs when it comes to fossil fuel divestment,” she said. “We have called upon [Yang] to support us as students, as activists, to be a figure in this and to represent us students well.”
In addition to endorsing student activist efforts, Yang’s statement also recognizes the faculty and staff who “deeply care about the moral, political, economic and scientific imperative of moving away from fossil fuel dependency.”
Yang also acknowledges in his statement the efforts the UC has “already made” toward “tackling climate change.”
Fossil fuel activists at UC Berkeley staged a similar sit-in just two weeks ago, during which over 20 students sat in Sproul Hall for almost 10 hours until UCPD asked them to leave.
The UC Davis chapter of Fossil Free UC also hosted a sit-in last week on their campus. Student activists initially planned to demonstrate in Mrak Hall during business hours but opted instead to stay the night after being asked by administration to vacate.
“Some of the most successful sit-ins have divested from fossil fuels, so why can’t we?” Macy said on Tuesday.
UC Regents will be holding one of their bimonthly meetings in Berkeley next week, during which they will discuss the status of their investments.