Chancellor Khosla Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment; No Word from UC Regents

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Student activists stage a sit-in at UCSB Cheadle Hall proposing fossil fuel divestment. The sit-in, held on May 11, went on for 72 hours. Jose Ochoa / Daily Nexus

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UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla released a statement today in support of fossil fuel divestment, joining three other chancellors at different UC campuses. While these campus administrators have spoken out publicly on the issue of divestment, the UC Regents have not.  

“I stand by our students who are calling for fossil fuel divestment and support their aims,” Chancellor Khosla wrote, also acknowledging professors and staff who support moving away from fossil fuels.

Khosla’s statement comes six days after UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang publicly agreed to endorse fossil fuel divestment in the UC. Yang’s statement came 60 hours after student activists from Fossil Free UCSB (a chapter of Fossil Free UC) staged a sit-in inside the administration building at UC Santa Barbara, making him the first UC Chancellor to endorse fossil fuel divestment.

In the past week, four UC chancellors in total have endorsed divestment from fossil fuels: Chancellor Yang at UCSB, Chancellor Blumenthal at UC Santa Cruz, interim Chancellor Hexter at UC Davis, and Chancellor Khosla.

Mukta Kelkar, Project Director of Fossil Fuel Divestment at the UCSD Student Sustainability Collective, believes that fossil fuel companies have too much political influence in the United States and that UC-wide divestment is a powerful way to fight that.

“As a university that prides itself on its climate research and sustainability efforts, it is important that UCSD encourage the UC Regents to stop investing in an unsustainable future,” Kelkar said.

Theo LeQuesne, a UC Santa Barbara PhD candidate in global studies and campaign coordinator for Fossil Free UCSB, agrees with Kelkar. He believes that Khosla’s endorsement of fossil fuel divestment reflects the momentum and support students across the UC have built around the issue.

“As the fourth chancellor to endorse fossil fuel divestment in the six days since UCSB’s 400 person sit, Chancellor Khosla is helping to solidify the kind of leadership that UC Chancellors must show in addressing the climate crisis,” LeQuesne said. 

UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. Photo courtesy of University Communications.

UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. Photo courtesy of University Communications.

LeQuesne said that while Chancellor Khosla is showing the kind of leadership that UC Chancellors need to show in addressing the climate crisis, the UC Regents and particularly Regent Richard Sherman, the Chair of the Investments Subcommittee, need to do more.  

“The UC Regents and particularly Regent Sherman continue to reject any such leadership and instead choose to side with the fossil fuel industry over students, faculty, staff and chancellors across the UC campuses,” LeQuesne said. 

LeQuesne told The Triton that during a meeting on Tuesday, Sherman refused to make a any public statement on divestment because Sherman and the Investments Office “don’t want it to be a political issue.”

“This doesn’t seem like leadership to us because the UC has actually divested 200 million from coal and tar sands, frozen any new investments in fossil fuels and made commitments to divest from DAPL,” he said. At an Investment Subcommittee meeting in March 2017, Vice President of investments and Chief Investment Officer of the Regents Jagdeep Singh Bachher said that this decision was was purely economic, despite significant pressure from students and community, including phone calls and postcards.

Without a statement, LeQuesne said that the UC Regents are not acknowledging “even the most cautious estimates by climate scientists.

“Meeting with him and the investment office tends to mean the administration lecturing us about why they think we’re wrong and closing their ears when we explain our case,” he said. “For us that’s not what leadership looks like, that’s what running away from the problem looks like.”

Gabriel Schneider is the News Editor for The Triton.