Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We've Got a Message for Sullivan and the Board of Trustees #rejectiondenied

To: Tom Sullivan, President
CC: Robert Cioffi, Chair, Board of Trustees
Corinne Thompson, Board of Trustees Coordinator
From: Student Climate Culture
RE: Fossil Fuel Divestment

President Thomas Sullivan,

Student Climate Culture is writing this letter to you because we feel that our Board’s Investment Subcommittee made an unfair decision regarding fossil fuel divestment, and we need your help.

It has been a very long time since the University of Vermont community has been as unified around a single issue as it is now around divestment. All of the governing bodies, upon hearing the divestment argument, have supported divestment by enormous margins. The same goes for the individuals that make up UVM: we’ve garnered almost 3,000 petition signatures in the past year, equivalent to approximately 20% of the entire community. Provided the chance to make our case, we are confident that we can answer any and all concerns about the issue.

Over the past year, we have patiently upheld and respected UVM's administrative process. As the Investment Subcommittee discussed the divestment proposal, we sat silently during their conversations, yet the opportunity never arose for us to correct the assumptions made by our Trustees. Consequently, the Subcommittee made its decision about our proposal based on misguided beliefs.

It has been implied that we should be grateful that the Subcommittee did not discuss the issue in executive session during their meetings. It has been implied that we should be grateful for the opportunity to create a three-minute video on short notice, in the middle of finals week. It has been implied that we should be grateful for having an established process for airing our concerns. But the reality has been that with each step up the administrative ladder, our voice gets more and more lost.

Again, given the opportunity, we can address each and every one of the Subcommittee’s concerns, but we have been stifled. After having struggled with the bureaucratic process as best we could, we have met a brick wall and see no clear path towards having the community’s voice heard. Given the historic level of support that fossil fuel divestment has received, we feel that it was unfair for the Subcommittee to rush to a decision so quickly, especially without allowing community members to weigh in on its discussion.

We are reaching out to you to ask for help. We are aware that you set the Board’s agenda in conjunction with Chair Cioffi, and we are hoping that you will stand up for the community and put divestment back on the table, to give the Board the opportunity to hear out the divestment proposal. We would also be happy to meet with you in person to discuss this issue in greater depth. A two-page summary of our proposal is attached to this letter.

Conventional responses to address the changing climate have failed. We need to address the root of the problem directly, and to do so effectively, we need leadership from those in positions of power. We hope you can help UVM lead on climate action, and we are grateful for your time.

Student Climate Culture

Contact: StudentClimateCulture@gmail.com