Oxford students have occupied St. John’s College since Wednesday, demanding that the College divests its £8.1 million of disclosed investments in fossil fuel companies and all undisclosed fossil fuel investments from its £551 million endowments.
Dozens of students have set up camp in the front quad of St. John’s equipped with banners and placards, to demand that it takes the climate emergency seriously and measures to remove the social licence of fossil fuel companies.
As of Thursday afternoon, there are allegations that St. John’s College had disabled student’s room keys. Instead, they are allegedly doing manual Bod card checks, escorting students to and from their rooms, and are not allowing non-residents to enter the college. There are reports of students bringing protesters food as they have remained on the quad since yesterday.
A solidarity rally has been taking place outside the front gates of the College.
St John’s has direct investments of £3.5 million in BP and £4.6 million in Shell and has denied several student’s Freedom of Information requests asking about other investments in mutual funds with fossil fuel exposure.
A group of St. John’s students have been attempting to engage the College leadership in a discussion about a reassessment of their investment policy and practices, with little success.
An ethical investment review committee has been formed but senior members have described it as a “purely intellectual exercise.”
The college has requested letters of reassurance from BP and Shell but has not taken any concrete action to divest their investment portfolio. A statement released on January 29th reads:
“The College is currently engaged in a wide-ranging review of its investment policies, which will report to Governing Body in due course. The group working on this includes both Governing Body Fellows and student representatives.”
It has been organised by St. John’s students, with the help of various climate action groups in Oxford. These include Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, Fossil Free Oxfordshire and Extinction Rebellion Oxford.
Protestors told The Oxford Student that the tents and banners had been snuck into the college over the course of a few days.
In addition, there is a 4m model of the RSS Sir David Attenborough which had been stored in North Oxford.
The Oxford Student was also told: “the hope is that John’s will declare a climate emergency and remove its investments in fossil fuel companies,” and that: “We hope to have a conversation with the principal and the head bursar.”
Pascale Gourdeau, co-chair of Oxford Climate Justice campaign said: “This action will bring some much-needed urgency to the divestment issue at Oxford.” This is particularly relevant considering Balliol have just committed to divesting their portfolio.
The Guardian reports that 78 out of 154 UK universities have committed to removing their investments in fossil fuels, including most recently, Balliol.
However, Oxford and many colleges continue to maintain their investments in fossil fuels. A fact which Fergus Green, an organiser for Direct Action for Divestment describes as “unjustifiable,” since they, “continue to profit from the exploitation of the most marginalised.”
Anna Olerinyova, a DPhil Chemist at John’s said: “The message from scientists is clear. To stop run-away climate change, we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. And our message to St. John’s is equally clear. Stop funding the destruction of our livelihoods, lands and futures, and drop these dirty investments now.”
Image Credit: Direct Action for Divestment Oxford Twitter