University of Leeds students confronted their vice-chancellor today

Thursday 26-05-2016 - 21:25

The University of Leeds ignored their students after an overwhelming referendum vote. They couldn’t ignore them today, and their vice chancellor heard their arguments face to face.

Leeds University Union held a referendum last November, and 83 per cent of students called for the university to divest from fossil fuels. It was the largest majority of any vote they’d ever held, and one of the biggest turn outs.

But last month, the University Council decided to ignore their students, and announced that they wouldn’t be divesting.

Today, as the University Council arrived for their first meeting since the announcement, they were greeted by students from 14 societies – coordinated by People and Planet – holding banners calling for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in renewables.

Their mouths were also taped, to underline how the overwhelming student voice had been silenced.

Walking past the long line of students as they arrived, the University Council couldn’t ignore this, and three of the students were invited into the meeting to make their case to the Vice Chancellor directly.

LUU union affairs officer Toke Dahler has been supporting and advancing the divestment campaign ever since the referendum, and calls for the fossil fuel money to be reinvested in renewable alternatives.

“The campaign to divest from fossil fuels is incredibly important”, he said. “Climate change is already inflicting catastrophic damage on the planet, and students clearly want the university to take immediate action”

Earlier this week, we published a briefing full of ideas about what the University of Leeds – along with all other UK institutions – could invest in rather than fossil fuels. Whether it’s on-campus renewables or efficiency projects, ethical equity funds, or green bonds, there’s loads of options, and the returns on these investments are often greater and safer than in coal, oil and gas.

In the referendum last year and during the occupation today, the message from students at the University of Leeds was clear. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels, and invest in the alternatives.

“We're really happy with how our sit-in went as it has given us the opportunity to show the University Council that we are prepared to use direct action to force divestment back onto the agenda, but that we are willing and able to talk to them directly about it as well”, the campaigners said, after the action.

“If our arguments go unheard, we will be gearing up for something more disruptive”

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