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Projects Updates for Fossil Fuels Divestment

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  1. Spring 2022 Semester Goals

    Co-presidents Owen Jennings, Maiah Caise, Jack Reicherts, and Maria Maring are excited to embark upon their second semester as SSLC leadership together. The primary goals of the semester include: 

     

    • Bolster collaboration between environmental RSOs on UIUC campus. The SSLC hopes to work with Student Affairs to incentivize participation with the SSLC, using the University of California Berkely’s Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) as a template. Weekly board meetings and monthly full meetings will continue per usual.

    • Bolster collaboration between other Illinois schools like University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Springfield, and Illinois State University. Both SECS and ISG may play significant roles in this relationship-building. The SSLC has already been in contact with Illinois State.

    • Host Earth Month events. The SSLC already began communication with the Illini Union Green Team last semester to begin planning events like Green Quad Day and a movie night on the Quad. Organizations like SECS, Red Bison, and iSEE that have been historically active in Earth Month events will be essential in these processes. 

    • Write SSLC bylaws. The Council has not previously had bylaws, and they are absolutely essential to moving forward in an organized and successful fashion. 

    • Continue to monitor the fight for divestment from fossil fuels. This iCAP Objective has caused copious political strife between students and administrators. Because divestment continues to be a hot topic, the SSLC will continue to listen to student concerns. 

     

  2. Fall 2021 Semester Summary

    The SSLC underwent many changes under the new leadership of co-presidents Owen Jennings, Maiah Caise, Jack Reicherts, and Maria Maring. The board experimented with the mission and niche of the SSLC, ultimately establishing that the organization shall act as a medium of communication between student groups and the administration. The organization will also be the primary host of the annual Student Sustainability Summit in October, touting – among other interdisciplinary events – Green Quad Day, Sustainable Student Research Symposium, and Tuesday Talks at Bevier Cafe. 

     

    This Summit was the Council’s most noteworthy accomplishment this semester. The SSLC collaborated with: Red Bison, Outdoor Adventure Club, the Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, the Sustainable Student Farm, the Pilot Processing Plant, Grand Prairie Friends, the F&S Solar House, Stop Line 3 CU, Students for Environmental Concerns, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Student Sustainability Committee. This myriad of events had varying levels of attendance. The SSLC leadership learned two primary lessons from the inaugural Student Sustainability Summit: first, quality over quantity in terms of events; and second, planning well ahead of time is absolutely essential in order to adequately advertise each event. If you attended or co-hosted any Summit event, and you would like to let the SSLC board know your feedback, please fill out this form. The current SSLC leadership looks forward to how future leadership will expand upon the Summit. 

     

    Another noteworthy accomplishment of the SSLC this semester was action following the publication of the Campus Admin Manual’s Expressive Activity Policy draft. Students were largely emotional about the policy’s stringent punishment for demonstrations on campus, so the SSLC – in conjunction with SECs and the SSC – wrote a letter to Chancellor Jones demanding that the policy more closely align with the student body’s needs. As of January 2022, the SSLC has received no reply from the Office of the Chancellor.  

     

    Co-presidents Maria Maring and Owen Jennings spoke at the Campus Sustainability Celebration and Sustainability Council meeting, respectively, on the topic of divestment. Though SSLC leadership was merely prompted to give basic updates at these meetings, they utilized the face-to-face opportunity with campus administrators to voice student concerns about completing iCAP Objective 9.1: Fully divest from fossil fuel companies by FY25. 

     

    In a first, the SSLC and general members participated in the Homecoming Parade. Roughly a dozen students marched with divestment-related signs. The SSLC hopes to expand Homecoming attendance next year. 

     

    The SSLC revived its dormant Facebook account (@sslcuiuc) and newly established an Instagram account (@uiuc_sslc). On the latter, the SSLC made 40 posts and gained 227 followers. The Facebook account has 93 followers; engagement on this platform is much less. The SSLC also made a linktree and a Google calendar to which other RSOs can sync. That way, all events from all different orgs are all conveniently on one calendar. This joint calendar is still undergoing troubleshooting, and it is not yet available for public viewing. 

     

    Amidst these new endeavors, the SSLC held full membership meetings roughly once a month, as did the previous leadership. One recurring issue was lack of attendance and engagement. Leadership held many conversations with both general members and staff advisors about how to increase the efficacy of the Council, but no good solution was found. The SSLC will continue to hold these monthly meetings and brainstorm about how to increase engagement throughout the upcoming spring semester. 

     

    The SSLC board met weekly. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact the Council at sslc-chair@mx-illinois.edu

  3. iCAP 2020 Divestment Objective Review

    Associated Project(s): 

    From: Benson, Barry D
    Sent: Thursday, August 6, 2020 7:29 AM
    To: Moore, Meredith Kaye <mkm0078 at illinois.edu>
    Subject: Re: iCAP 2020 divestment objective review

     

    Hi Meredith,

     

    Thank you for your email and I appreciate the opportunity to review the objective below.  I look forward to seeing the final document.  All the best and stay safe and healthy!

     

    Regards,

    — Barry

     

    On Aug 4, 2020, at 4:41 PM, Moore, Meredith Kaye <mkm0078 at illinois.edu> wrote:

    

    Hello Mr. Benson,

     

    I hope this message finds you well. My name is Meredith Moore and I am the Sustainability Programs Coordinator with the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE). We are nearing the final stages of the editing process of the  Illinois Climate Action Plan 2020 (iCAP 2020), our campus sustainability strategic plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. I wanted to check with you to review and verify the language of the objective below on fossil fuel divestment. We discussed this objective in length at the Sustainability Council meeting with Chancellor Jones in June and would now like to lock in this language as soon as possible. I am happy to answer any questions you may have, and look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you!

     

    #9.1 [Chancellor]: Fully divest from fossil fuel companies by FY25.

    Fossil fuel companies are defined as companies which profit from the extraction, transport, or combustion of coal, petroleum, or natural gas. The production and use of coal contributes to environmental, social, and health issues, potentially leading to irreversible ecological damage. The university currently invests less than 1% of its portfolio in coal utility and mining companies and has already divested its direct holdings in coal. As an institution that prides itself on being "a model of sustainability, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness for the world to see," it is imperative that the university's values and commitment to combating climate change are reflected in all of our investments. By divesting from fossil fuel companies, the university will reduce its contributions to and association with the negative environmental and social impacts attached to fossil fuel companies. Trends also suggest that the change in the economic market, especially as a result of COVID-19, supports a positive financial decision to divest. In order to ensure financial stability and cease contributing to climate change and social injustice, the University of Illinois must enact a plan to replace all of its investments in fossil fuel companies with financially stable and ethical investments as soon as possible, and then reinvest in more sustainable companies. 

    The university has been discussing fossil fuel divestment since 2000 when students formed a group named “UIUC Beyond Coal.” Fossil fuel divestment has been formally recommended by the Joint Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Licensing and Investment in 2017 and a resolution passed in 2019. In August 2017, students sent a memo to Chancellor Jones “expressing our unanimous position that the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana should set a date within the next decade for complete divestment from coal utility and coal mining companies.”  Chancellor Jones’ October 2017 reply noted, “this is a complex and interconnected financial network that crosses a number of different governance lines within the University System.” He also stated, “I will share your report with President Tim Killeen and with UIF President Jim Moore and initiate conversations with them about the next steps we might take to move ourselves towards a more sustainable footprint while maintaining the financial stability we require as a university.” He has verbally supported divestment multiple times since.

    The University of Illinois Foundation is an organization related to the university that manages the endowment with an independent board. While neither the Chancellor nor the University President can make this decision for the University of Illinois Foundation, they can clearly state their support of fossil fuel divestment and specifically request a change from the decision authorities. Through this iCAP objective, we will work with the Office of the Chancellor to create a letter encouraging divestment. The letter will be from Chancellor Jones, and it will be sent to all responsible parties involved in the decision to divest, including the University of Illinois Foundation, Board of Trustees, President Killeen, and those responsible for the portion of the endowment housed in the President’s office. Divesting from fossil fuels is a significant step to put our environmental commitments into action.

     

     

    --
    Meredith Moore

    Sustainability Programs Coordinator

    Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE)

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    1101 W. Peabody, Urbana, Suite 338 (NSRC)

    217.333.0119 | mkm0078 at illinois.edu

    sustainability.illinois.edu

      

  4. Chancellor sent a letter

    Associated Project(s): 

    Chancellor Jones sent a letter to the University of Illinois Foundation, asking to “continue to evaluate investment opportunities and exposures for both their financial risk and return along with environmental, social and governance factors.” Chancellor Jones also attached a copy of the iCAP along with the letter and a response is currently being awaited.

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