From the Divest UVic Team: Written by Christina Price
Since February, Divest UVic worked hard to win the student referendum that was tied to the UVSS elections. By using the Nationbuilder program we were able to e-mail hundreds if not a few thousand students asking them to vote. We also printed off calling lists and called hundreds of students reminding them to vote. In the few weeks leading up to the referendum we had many tabling events and did many classrooms talks in order to build our petition and gather contact info. What was the result?
We won the referendum in March as 77% of students that voted, voted in favour of the UVSS lobbying the university to divest its holdings in fossil fuels! This was a crucial win for the campaign because now the campaign is sponsored by the UVSS which means we get more funding, personnel help in terms of UVSS staff time and a new flux of energetic student leaders who are passionate about the movement and wanting to see positive change towards sustainability.
An additional positive outcome of our Get-Out-The-Vote effort was that people who voted in favour of divestment also typically voted for UVSS candidates that were in favour of the movement as well as other sustainability initiatives. In this way, Divest UVic helped elect sustainability-oriented student society leaders. For example, Tristan Ryan, one of our most dedicated volunteers and organizers is now the Director of Finance and Nathan Michael, another Divest UVic volunteer and organizer is a Director at Large.
Emily Thiessen describes the activities of Divest UVic that took place over this summer:
"Over the summer, we began organizing in separate working groups. The research team read research briefs from Divest McGill, Divest U of T and other universities in order to inform our own report that will be sent to UVic's Board of Governors and Foundation Board.
The report will focus on how UVic-specific fossil fuel holdings have been performing, and how divested portfolios have been performing in the past year, as well as the benefits of divestment for the university's reputation. We also met with faculty, and staff from the Professional Employees Association, CUPE 4163, CUPE 917 and CUPE 915 to talk about upcoming staff resolutions on divestment, and how to collaborate in the future. We met with Jim Dunston, Associate Vice President Student Affairs, to discuss the possibility of collaboration. Divest UVic also participated in a nationwide action called We > Tar Sands in which students held sit-ins in their MP offices to call for stronger climate policy.”
Here are a few quotes from students who have been involved:
“Volunteering with Divest UVic has inspired me and given me hope for a better future because I can see the change that passionate, caring and committed people can create.” - Ida Jorgensen
“Volunteering with Divest UVic was great because it builds skills such as volunteer organization and public speaking.” - Jonah Timms
“I've learned skills in everything from volunteer coordination to writing a press release that will be useful for pretty much everything else I want to do.” - Emily Thiessen
“Being a part of Divest UVic has given me hope for positive change towards a more sustainable future and it’s such a privilege to work with such passionate people.” - Christina Price