Creighton students’ call for climate justice continued on Tuesday with a vote in which 85.8% of 2,438 total participants voted in support of passing Creighton Students Union Referendum No. 19-02, which calls for the university to divest funds from the fossil fuel industry.
With this majority vote, the nonbinding referendum passed through the student body.
If the university chooses not to devise a plan to divest, the referendum proposes that a public statement should be made, giving moral and financial justifications for the decision.
In an email sent to university students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday, Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J. recognized students for their “concern, commitment, and passion in seeking solutions to the serious environmental challenges we, as a global community, face today.”
Hendrickson stated in the email that he will provide a response to the vote early next week.
“I am grateful for the dialogue that has occurred,” Hendrickson said. “I look forward to continuing the conversation.”
The referendum calls for a gradual divestment of the 10.6% of university endowment funds currently invested in the fossil fuel industry by 2025.
Of this 10.6%, about 2% is invested in the top 200 highest carbon emitting fossil fuel companies, according to Referendum No. 19-02.
The referendum also calls for the university to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies.
By the date on which the university has reached full operational carbon neutrality, the referendum states it should also be fully divested from fossil fuel companies.
Galeski said that the overwhelming student support for the referendum reflects the scientific consensus that urgent climate action is imperative to avoid catastrophic warming. It also aligns with Creighton’s own investment policy statement.
“The recent financial performance and future projections of the fossil fuel industry make it apparent that Creighton’s extremely high exposure in this sector is costing the university,” Galeski said. “I am hopeful that this landslide victory will wake people up to this reality.”
After failing to pass through the CSU Cabinet on Sept. 16, the referendum was revised and presented to the cabinet again on Sept. 23, where it passed 7-1-0.
It was sponsored by Shahbazi, CSU Board of Representatives Sustainability Chair Michael Galeski, College of Arts and Sciences junior Emily Burke and Heider College of Business senior Hugh Truempi.
On Sept. 30, the referendum passed through the CSU Board of Representatives and the Executive Committee, which gave way for the referendum to be voted on by the student body.
The results of the vote were announced by CSU President Donna Shahbazi at the 2019 State of the Student address in the Skutt Student Center on Tuesday.
The Climate Movement, a student group with more than 500 members fighting for climate justice at Creighton, has recently received some pushback from the university.
On Oct. 30, the authors of the referendum were instructed by university officials to stop using the university’s name for further promotion of the Climate Movement, which was previously named the Creighton Climate Movement.
Members of the Climate Movement abided, crossing out “Creighton” on T-shirts that they have been wearing around campus that advertise for divestment.
Galeski, who has been a leader for the Climate Movement, said that regardless of the university’s response to the divestment vote, students expect and deserve a transparent and thorough, evidence-based explanation for the final decision.
“As students, we have done our homework,” Galeski said. “We have presented the moral, financial, and scientific evidence. It is time for our university administration to respond with a comparative level of substance and academic rigor. Opinions and feelings are not enough. We want facts.”
The leaders of the movement are grateful for the turnout and results of Tuesday’s vote.
“[Students] should be very proud of themselves,” Burke said. “We are on our way to a more engaged, more accountable Creighton.”
The fight for climate justice will not end here for students.
“By no means is this [election result] an abdication of our efforts,” Burke said. “There is still much work here to be done.”
The full text of CSU Referendum No. 19-02: Divestment from Fossil Fuels can be found on Creighton’s website.