Students staged a “die in” on Friday afternoon at the university Registry office, in protest of UEA’s continued commitment to investment in fossil fuels.
In 2015 a Freedom of Information request to the university revealed that it holds over £130,000 of shares in fossil fuel companies. The publication of this fact motivated students to stage an occupation near the Vice Chancellor’s office in November of the same year.
A “die in” involves protesters lying on the ground of a public place, in this case the reception area of the Registry building, simulating being dead.
The six students demanded UEA to divest in fossil fuels, commit to a more ethical investment policy and “ensure a fair and open dialogue between student campaigns and UEA management.”
Lewis Martin, speaking on behalf of the protesters, said “With UEA having fallen once again in the People and Planet league table we felt it was time for action.”
He went on to say that the Vice Chancellor has not been willing to meet with the group, “until the sustainable carbon investment report has been released.”
“We saw as the only route to get him to commit to meeting with us and to remind him about the demands of our campaign,” he said.
A spokesperson for the environmental action group People and Planet said, “students at UEA are sending a clear message to the university administration, that they will not allow the university to remain complicit in the climate crisis.”
They said, “Students are at the core of the Fossil Free Movement and a fundamental factor in its exponential growth, highlighting the power of youth-led collective action. By staging this die-in, these student campaigners are standing in solidarity with the communities across the world that are on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction and climate change.”
Last year 95 academics from the university signed an open letter calling on it to divest in corporations like Shell and Rio Tinto. They argued that UEA’s investment is “logically and morally incompatible” with the university’s commitment to environmentally progressive schemes.
To “continue to provide financial and therefore reputational [sic] support to the very industry most responsible for driving the climate crisis appears incongruous,” the professors said.
The university said at the time, “We do not believe withdrawing UEA’s limited investment from fossil fuel companies will make an effective contribution to the overwhelming necessity to reduce energy consumption, increase carbon capture, develop sustainable low carbon energy sources and mitigate the extent of global warming and the effects of climate change.”
A number of UK universities, including the University of Glasgow, University of Bedfordshire, University of Edinburgh, and SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), have all made commitments to divestment in recent years.