Senators ushered through legislation to condemn university investments in the top 200 fossil fuel production companies, but offered few details about how to divest from fossil fuel use at a campus level. Other notable resolutions included the senate’s decision to rejoin the United States Student Association (USSA) — a national student-run organization that fights to increase accessibility for higher education — and support for a statewide tax credit that aims to improve student wages and working conditions.
As part of a systemwide initiative spearheaded by UCSA, the fossil fuel resolution urges the UC to pull investments from the fossil fuel industry to address climate change. The resolution reads, “Whereas; The extraction of burning unconventional fossil fuels poses greater risk to climate, ecosystems and human communities than conventional sources. These risks disproportionately affect lower income and marginalized communities.”
The resolution also explains that industrial extraction of coal is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. It reads, “Of the University of California’s undergraduate campuses, seven have taken the stance to support divestment from the fossil fuel industry.”
Senator Sean Famian also delivered his own powerpoint presentation to discuss his contentions with the fossil fuel resolution. He aimed to revise the resolution to make it more specific and felt the phrase “fossil fuel industry” was “all-encompassing.” Famian felt the resolution only targeted the coal and petroleum industries as the main, underlying causes that adversely affect global climate, rather than human consumption. His presentation stated that the “issue is not in the fossil fuel industry,” but the “issue is in the automobile industry and the nature of things.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 47 percent of all oil is used for passenger travel, which contributes to greenhouse gases.
“I wasn’t against the resolution, I just felt it needed more focus so not only could the ASUCR take a stance, but we could maybe even take action,” said Famian. “The fossil fuel industry provides all of us with most of the things we take for granted. I feel that that phrase focuses more on where the greenhouse emissions and pollution are coming from.”
A speaker said the UC system has invested $7.1 billion into the fossil fuel industries. “I won’t say that this is the wrong decision, but it’s a troubling decision because looking at a market, you can’t just take out $7.1 billion out of a market without bringing the whole thing down,” he said about how fossil fuel divestment should come more gradually, due to the university’s close ties to the energy industries.
As Vice Chair of the Legislative Review Committee (LRC), Senator Niela Darmani explained that LRC initially voted to exclude the fossil fuel definition from the resolution. Darmani explained that the issue wasn’t about the definition of the term “fossil fuel,” but rather, “(the resolution) was to define the industry that (UC’s) divesting in and what divestment that would be.”
When placed for a vote, the fossil fuel resolution was amended to include the phrasing “specifically for the top 200 companies with the largest reserve of oil, coal and natural gas” to elaborate on the term, “fossil fuel industry.”
The amendments made to the resolution passed with a majority of 14 to one.
As the only senator who voted against the motion, Senator Abraham Galvan felt the change to the resolution was an “unnecessary” move. “I just felt as though nobody in the Senate or in the galley was conflating the idea of the ‘fossil fuel industry’ with the plastic industry, nylon industry, or any other industries except the petroleum, coal and natural gas industries,” he said. “Moreover, I didn’t feel as though we should actually be limiting the scope of our resolution.”
Senators also approved the creation of two separate clauses for the resolution, in order to distinguish the senate’s and the university’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
Motioned by Senator Shadi Matar and seconded by Senator Galvan, the overall resolution was approved unanimously.
As a set agenda item from the previous week, senators also unanimously passed a resolution to pursue formal membership into USSA, which is intended to increase UCR’s visibility on a national level. USSA launches campaigns around student-related issues, such as increasing financial aid, recruiting and retaining underrepresented students and improving campus safety.
The resolution calls for Aref to bring forth a referendum, which will create a consistent line of funding for the membership; Aref plans to place a 50-cent referendum on the upcoming election ballot.
According to the elections bylaw, the passage of a referendum requires approval from 15 percent of the voting undergraduate student body, which must represent at least 20 percent — about 4,400 students — of the entire undergraduate population. A referendum may pass if a total of about 660 voting students choose to support it during the ASUCR elections.
With unanimous approval by the senate, the resolution reads, “Whereas; The values of affordability, accessibility and quality, which are the mission statement of the University of California Student Association, our local statewide student association, mirror the values of the United States Student Association.”
Another notable legislation included the UC Student Association’s (UCSA) Internship Tax Credit Resolution. The resolution urges Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature to pass a state bill that would grant a tax credit to employers, who pay interns enrolled in higher education or with outstanding student loan debt, at the state minimum wage.
The resolution states that the average California student in higher education accumulates an average of $19,000 in student loan debt, with increasing pressures to obtain internship experience. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 57 percent of employers prefer applicants with prior experience from an internship or co-op.
The resolution was unanimously approved by the senate.
The senate confirmed the selection of third-year anthropology major, Suzanne Joseph, as the final justice needed on the judicial branch.
Executive Vice President Armando Saldana discussed the possibility of creating a separate finance budget for each college sometime in the future.
The student technology committee seeks to give students the ability to use their free printing of 200 pages at Watkins Hall and apply it to the Rivera Library.
Outreach Director Mina Kato approved Mohammad Hussein, a former judicial branch candidate, as an outreach committee member.
President Sai Patadia and Vice President of Campus Internal Affairs Johnny Ta will fulfill their Promise for Education by shaving their heads on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. at the Bell Tower.
Issue 11 corrections and clarifications: The Highlander incorrectly included the following information in the news article entitled, “Senators divest from fossil fuel industry.” President of Sustainable UCR Jasmine Kavezade was incorrectly credited for the following statement: “Why is the university … investing in something that’s killing the future?” Another member of the same organization, Francisco IIabaca, was incorrectly credited as saying, “I won’t say that this is the wrong decision, but it’s a troubling decision because looking at a market, you can’t just take out $7.1 billion out of a market without bringing the whole thing down.” The fossil fuel divestment resolution was introduced by Nilan Gunewardena, and not the United States Student Association. The resolution urges the UC General Endowment Fund, not the UC, to slowly divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.