This week’s Student Government Association meeting proceeded as usual, with some of the most pressing issues discussed including fossil fuel divestment as well as a number of other significant topics.
The Bottle Bill Campaign at the University of Massachusetts has made significant progress in the past few weeks. Previously, this campaign had a goal of collecting 100,000 signatures to petition the current status of the Bottle Bill, which only recycles a certain type of bottles and containers. Revisions to the campaign aim to allow recycling of other types of bottles to promote a greater environmentally friendly impact.
Fortunately, the Bottle Bill Campaign has attained well over 100,000 petition signatures, which means this issue will show up on the 2014 ballot.
President Zac Broughton briefly discussed an update on the SGA’s efforts towards shared governance. The SGA and the Graduate Student Senate are currently in discussion with the Chancellor in an effort to promote shared governance at the University.
A number of other issues were discussed briefly. The Secretary of Registry noted an update on the construction of the Blue Wall and Burgers 101, which is intended to take place entirely during the spring semester. According to the Secretary, this will cause an issue for all registered student organizations that table in the Campus Center.
A Faculty Student Representative also noted the progress made during a meeting discussing General Education requirements. Currently, the Social and Cultural Diversity curriculum requirement has two required courses. One course must be a Global Diversity course (GS) while the other must be a United States Diversity course (US). The current differentiation between these two course types is somewhat unclear, and faculty student representatives are looking to improve that.
A Composting Committee has been working towards helping improve the environment atmosphere here at the University. Meetings have begun to work towards making composting more accessible to students on campus.
Continued discussions took place regarding the status of elevator safety at the University. A motion was passed stating that the “Administration direct the Physical Plant to take the necessary steps to ensure that all elevators are properly inspected and have conspicuous postings of their up to date inspection placards.”
A motion was passed allocating an $840 budget request to the UMass Running Club. The budget was requested by this RSO in order to help them cover registration fees for the races they participate in throughout the year. The club did not receive the same amount of funding they received in previous years, which is why they made this significant request.
Fossil fuel divestment was a major issue that took center stage at Monday’s meeting. Last semester, the Student Senate passed an enactment in which a formal recommendation to the UMass Foundation Investment Committee suggesting they immediately freeze any and all endowment in fossil fuel companies and to divest from direct ownership of commingled funds that include fossil fuel bonds.
The motion to repeal this recommendation, replacing it with a recommendation to the Investment Committee to invest in environmentally friendly companies, bonds and ventures was discussed at Monday’s meeting.
Proponents of repealing and replacing this motion argued that the current recommendation of divestment is unrealistic because it is too large of a goal. Instead, proponents of repealing this recommendation argue to take the issue of climate change in smaller steps rather than choosing to divest immediately.
“What we previously recommended is an extreme measure,” Senator Herlitz said. “Instead, investments in environmentally-conscious companies will help resolve this issue in a realistic manner.”
Those that argued against passing this motion emphasized the importance of divestment as a means of helping the environment. These Senators provided a number of shocking statistics that emphasized the need to start implementing environmentally friendly policies.
Students supporting divestment argued that agreeing to stop all investment in companies contributing to fossil fuels would help in the deteriorating environment status.
The motion passed last year recommending divestment was also adapted in other UMass branches. Those that argued against the repealing of this motion noted that repealing a motion that was adapted by other schools would reflect poorly on the University.
“It’s a bad idea to take back what we put forth before,” said Broughton, who believes that the motion to repeal the divestment recommendation should not be passed.
Another Senator shared the same logic, saying, “I think it’s a bad precedent if we take back what we put out before and put out something easier.”
After a heated debate, the motion to repeal the recommendation to Investment Committee for divestment failed. Therefore, fossil fuel divestment is still an implemented request by the Student Senate.
Katrina Borofski can be reached at [email protected]