On February 9, an open letter with the signatures of over 100 McGill faculty members was submitted to the Board of Governors (BoG) by the McGill Faculty for Divestment campaign. The letter was distributed just one week after Divest McGill submitted a 150-page research brief to the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), and calls on the administration to divest McGill’s endowment fund from fossil fuel companies.
In an email to The Daily, Divest McGill organizer and U3 Environmental Sciences student Kristen Perry spoke to the significance of this faculty backing.
“I think that faculty support will absolutely play a role in the ultimate decision by the Board. When they are hearing the call for divestment from multiple parts of the McGill community – students, faculty, alumni, staff – that only strengthens the message that we want McGill’s investments to reflect the values we extol, including a commitment to sustainability and leadership.”
According to McGill professor Darin Barney, he and other faculty members were approached about a year ago to start developing formal faculty support for divestment.
“I would say [McGill Faculty for Divestment] was really prompted by the students of Divest McGill,” said Barney.
The letter, which is still open to signatures, has received support from professors in a range of departments from Art History to Physics.
“We were quite pleased with the level of faculty support […] we still think we can do better, but our goal was to get 100 signatures by the time the petition and brief were submitted by Divest McGill [to CAMSR], and we exceeded that goal,” said Barney.
“We were quite pleased with the level of faculty support […] we still think we can do better, but our goal was to get 100 signatures by the time the petition and brief were submitted by Divest McGill [to CAMSR], and we exceeded that goal.”
While Divest McGill has been organizing on campus for over two years, signatory McGill professor Shaun Lovejoy was not surprised that McGill has been slow on the uptake.
“McGill – the administration and BoG – are a pretty conservative bunch,” Lovejoy told The Daily. “I don’t think they want to be the first to do something like this, but I doubt they want to be the last.”
According to Barney, McGill Faculty for Divestment has broader plans moving forward.
“We’re now moving into the phase where we’re going to be liaising with some of the faculty groups that are at campuses across the world […and] approach different kinds of faculty bodies at McGill to try to get collective support [for divestment].”
Perry said that Divest McGill also plans to continue working with McGill Faculty for Divestment.
“We are certainly going to be continuing to work with these wonderful faculty members. There is already a dedicated group of them working on promoting divestment, and they seem to have lots of energy and ideas, so we’re excited to move forward.”