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University of Oregon Students win divestment from fossil fuels, 2013-2016
In December of 2013 at The University of Oregon, a group of students founded Divest UO, to persuade the University of Oregon Foundation (the Board of Trustees) to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Over the next two and a half years, Divest UO employed multiple tactics including a mock wedding, numerous sit-ins, and several teach-ins to achieve their goal.
About one year after its inception, on the 23rd of January, 2014, Divest UO hosted their first event, a teach-in with dinner provided to help foster awareness about the fossil fuel industry and the possibility of divestment. Divest UO proceed to meet on a weekly basis in order to raise awareness of their cause, to attract new members, and to brainstorm possible methods in convincing the UO Foundation to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
After a year of weekly meetings and raising awareness, UO Divest held a rally on the 13 February 2015 as part of 350.org’s Global Divestment Day where Mayor Piercy made an appearance and spoke publicly backing the students in their endeavor to force UO Foundation to divest. Students participating brought various noisemakers and colorful signs to the rally. Throughout the rally, UO Divest passed a petition around calling for the divestment from fossil fuel by the UO Foundation. Just a few months later, during Earth Week, UO Divest held another rally on 21 April in the amphitheater on campus in order to raise awareness of the negative impact the fossil fuel industry has had on climate change.
UO Divest continued to meet on a weekly basis and plan further actions. Between the 14th and 16th of March 2016, UO Divest held a sit-in in an administrative building named Johnson Hall during the students’ finals week. Dives UO advertised the sit-in as a way to group study while making a positive impact on the current affairs of the campus. Following the sit-in, UO Divest held a press conference in front of Johnson Hall that several local news sources covered.
During the month of April in 2016, UO Divest organized and executed two sit-ins, both in Johnson Hall. The students held the first sit-in between the 4th and the 8th of April, and the second sit-in between the 11th and the 20th of April. These sit ins were much like the ones conducted previously, in fact UO Divest advertised the first of the two sit ins as “The Spring Edition” and the second as “Sit In 2.0”. They were both held in Johnson Hall and collected a large number of participants of about 40-60 students at any point in time. After the second sit-in, UO Divest conducted a mock wedding on the 21 April 2016 that portrayed the union between the UO Foundation and the fossil fuel industry. The mock bride, complete with a full white wedding gown and mask that had the appearance of a smoke stack, represented the oil industry. The mock groom wore a duck head (UO mascot) and represented the UO Foundation. The mock wedding attracted the attention of local news sources, who reported on the elaborate detail and a large turn out.
During May of 2016, UO Divest hosted a movie screening and a public speech to raise awareness about climate change. On 13 May, UO Divest screened Disobedience, a documentary film on the growing nonviolent resistance to the fossil fuel industry. A few days later, on 17 May, UO Divest hosted a public speech by Tim DeChristopher who spoke about Josh Fox’s film How to Let Go of the World. In one of UO Divest’s last public events on 2 June, students testified before the board to persuade them to vote for divestment. UO Divest continued to hold group meetings until the UO Foundation declared that they would divest from the fossil fuel industry in September of 2016. The UO Foundation has publicly sworn to divest their stocks from the fossil fuel industry which makes up less than 1 percent of their financial portfolio.