by Joe Adgie
On Monday night, SAVE (Students Against Violating the Environment) went to the SGA for support of their divestment program and didn’t get it.
The divestment program concerns requesting the VSU Foundation to “freeze any new investments in the fossil fuel industry and commit to a plan to divest all of its holdings in fossil fuels within five years,” according to a letter that SAVE sent to the organization on Oct. 11.
The SGA, however, expressed concerns with the consequences of this divestment program.
“I do know a few companies that are what (SAVE) would consider that we need to divest from,” Sen. Tamelonie Thomas said. “They do play an integral part in our scholarship. They play an integral part in our special projects on campus, and I don’t want it to seem as though the SGA is stepping out and saying ‘The student body is against this’ when we don’t exactly know who these companies are.”
Thomas was referring to a line in SAVE’s presentation that read “We have included a list of the 200 largest fossil fuel extraction companies from which we are asking to divest.”
SAVE did not list these companies, nor did they mention any of these companies, by name at Monday night’s meeting, and the SGA was unable to determine what these companies were. However, this list is available on the Fossil Free campaign’s website at gofossilfree.org.
Other SGA members explained the benefit that this divestment program would provide to VSU.
“The thing is when you invest into a company, you’re empowering them,” said Senator Candicee Childs, SGA representative of the Faculty Senate’s Environmental Issues Committee. “If you take away your investment, you’re sending a message (that says) we as a people, as human beings, understand the issues that (are) going on with our climates, and we want a better environment.”
Childs explained that SAVE wanted the VSU Foundation to “invest in companies that actually care about us as humans with the environment.”
“It’s not a common issue that you hear about, but basically they want to send a message that we care about our environment and our health,” Childs said.
Others in the SGA expressed confusion as to what this divestment program entailed.
“I went to dictionary.com to make sure I knew what divestment was,” Senator Tamera Dunn said.
Senator Edgar James called for a hand vote to see how many senators actually understood the program.
“Investments and gas stuff are difficult to understand,” Senator Matt Lovelace said. “I was a finance major when I was in my undergrad, and I still have difficulty understanding what they’re talking about. Don’t be ashamed saying you don’t understand either.”
It was this lack of understanding that helped defeat the measure of support, as 18 senators abstained from voting on the measure. Three senators voted in support of SAVE while 13 voted against.
The SGA vowed, however, to work with SAVE on projects in the future.