The UW is officially divesting from coal, following the examples of schools like Stanford University and the University of Maine.
The commotion surrounding Thursday’s divestment vote began with a rally in Red Square. At first, it appeared that Divest UW, the group advocating for and working with the UW to divest, was going to have some competition getting their voices heard: “Environmentalists are Earth worshippers,” a religious protester screamed at the Divest UW rally.
Starting at about 25 people, the number of activists quickly grew. When it came time for the official vote at the Board of Regents meeting, the group’s size had doubled.
“Hey UW, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” members chanted along with Reclaim UW, a group of students and workers fighting budget cuts and inequality.
They had just come from the Finance and Asset Management Committee’s divestment vote. Their vote, which was unanimously in favor of divestment, served as a recommendation to the regents.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a vote on the table,” said Bryce Bartl-Geller, Divest UW core member. “There’s been an unprecedented transparency, and I think a lot of it is due to Ana Mari [Cauce].”
For this reason, Bartl-Geller was feeling optimistic.
“We are on the verge of, quite frankly, making history,” said interim UW president Ana Mari Cauce. “There is some cynicism about, ‘Is it just a talk?’”
Cauce went on to elaborate how, as she understands it, a lot of the public sees the UW as akin to the powerful guy behind the screen in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Despite such negative perspectives, three hours after Divest UW started gathering, Bartl-Geller’s optimism was validated.
“Education is a right,” exclaimed Reclaim UW and most Divest UW members as they left immediately after the public comments section, “not just for the rich and white!”