Each election cycle at Boston College, undergraduate students have the opportunity to propose referenda, which are non-binding questions put to a vote by the student body. This year, the question “Should Boston College withhold investments from the fossil fuel industry?” will appear on the presidential elections ballot for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.
The official sponsors of the referendum are Kate Canavan, MCAS ’21, who serves as a UGBC senator; Kyle Rosenthal, CSOM ’21, who is a member of Climate Justice BC; and the organization Climate Justice BC. The referendum has also found support from other UGBC senators and both teams running for UGBC President and Executive Vice President have endorsed a “yes” vote.
Canavan is working as a part of the campaign to elect Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20 and Tiffany Brooks, MCAS ’21, as UGBC President and Executive Vice President. Rosenthal is serving on the campaign to elect Taylor Jackson, MCAS ’21, and Alejandro Perez, MCAS ’21 to the same positions.
Student support for divestment, both Canavan and Rosenthal emphasized, is not a new movement on campus. Just last April, UGBC passed a resolution calling for the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The purpose of the resolution, according to Canavan, was to demonstrate that the student body is in favor or divestment, and this year’s referendum builds off the foundation created by that resolution.
“Now it’s not just the people elected to represent the student body,” she said, “but the student body themselves showing that they support the University divesting.”
Canavan and Rosenthal hope that by further establishing widespread support for divestment, they can continue to build a case for why the administration should take action on this issue. At the very least, they see this as an opportunity to engage in additional dialogue with the administration and the Board of Trustees about socially responsible investing.
“We’ve been proactively in dialogue with them about this being on the ballot,” Rosenthal said. “But ideally, as we think they should for any resolution or referendum, they should be reaching out to the students to see how we can collaborate on this issue moving forward.”
Both Canavan and Rosenthal stress the importance of climate justice-related University actions like divestment to creating a positive environmental impact that reaches beyond the University itself.
“Any policies the administration implements can have a really wide impact,” Canavan said. “Any sort of sustainability initiative that the administration implements would be much more effective than, for example, me using reusable utensils as opposed to plastic utensils.”
Rosenthal, who studies the intersection of sustainability and business, echoed Canavan’s sentiments, but further emphasized the potential impact BC’s divestment could have on other Jesuit and Catholic universities.
“When I came to realize that BC has an incredibly large and influential endowment approaching $3 billion, I realized we could have a major, major impact by addressing that,” Rosenthal said. “Over the last two years of being at BC, I’ve done a lot of research about Jesuit and Catholic schools and their endowments, and I know that BC wields a lot of influence there. So, on top of our divestment making a significant impact [in the BC community], I think it would also have a big huge wave, and domino effect, with all the other Jesuit Catholic schools in the country and the world.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor