A proposal to end UEA’s £130,000 investment in fossil fuel companies has been rejected by UEA management on the basis that the university is not “a campaigning organisation”.
The ‘divestment’ proposal, made by student activists as part of the global “Fossil Free” campaign and supported by the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), asks the university to stop supporting the fossil fuel industry, who Fossil Free accuses of accelerating climate change.
In a written response to the proposal, Brian Summers – UEA’s Registrar & Secretary – said the executive management of UEA had rejected the idea. Mr Summers wrote that in the view of UEA’s executive management, the university “is not fundamentally a campaigning organisation” and also said that UEA “does not seek to take positions on sensitive or controversial issues which do not further…our charitable purposes”. He added that the university prefers making an impact “through engagement, discussion and…academic output”.
When asked if any discussion had taken place with the fossil fuel industry on this issue, UEA’s press office said: “The University does not plan to discuss this issue with ‘the fossil fuel industry’”.
Responding to Mr Summers, UEA Fossil Free said: “We refute the idea that you need to be a campaigning organisation in order to adopt environmental commitments. Divestment should be considered on its own merits and not rejected on the basis of unfounded concerns about adopting a supposedly controversial stance”.
They added: “We are planning on escalating the campaign, initially via public stunts and petitioning, to continue to raise awareness of the campaign and the issues behind it to students”.
In 2005, UEA divested from arms companies. When asked what distinguished the 2005 arms divestment from Fossil Free’s proposal, UEA’s press office said: “The University did not have its controversial and sensitive issues policy in place in 2005.”