Students have been engaged in long-running campaigns for divestmentSimon Lock

The University’s divestment working group will host two ‘town hall’ consultation meetings in the coming weeks, seeking to gauge opinions from students and staff on selling off Cambridge’s investments in oil and gas companies.

All members can apply for a ticket to the two events, which will take place at 1pm on October 25th and 4pm on November 9th, both at Lady Mitchell Hall on the Sidgwick site.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, who is chairing the group, said the consultations would “provide an opportunity for those concerned about these issues to voice their opinions in a respectful manner.”

The working group was launched last term, with the task of examining the “advantages and disadvantages” of divestment from fossil fuels. The University’s £6.3bn endowment, the largest outside of the US, has been estimated by one campaign group to include £370m invested in fossil fuels. There are several long-standing campaigns calling on Cambridge to withdraw its money from carbon-intensive investments, which have stressed both a financial and reputational risk if the University does not divest.

On Monday, a submission co-written by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the campaigning group People & Planet called on the University fully divest from fossil fuels. Its signatories included Noam Chomsky, the presidents of CUSU and the NUS, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner and Rowan Williams, master of Magdalene College, who last year described climate change as ‘life-and-death’ issue. In January, fellows and senior staff passed a grace approved by Regent House, the University’s sovereign body, which called for full divestment but could not directly compel the University Council (UC) to change Cambridge’s investments.

At the two consultations, contributors will be allowed to speak for up to five minutes, with a possibility that similar viewpoints will be grouped together to save time.

Donald, master of Churchill College, said “These Town meetings – open to all current staff and student members of the University -–are a key part of the group’s consultations.”

She said the consultations would "offer a new departure for the University in terms of open consultation."

The working group is comprised of Lord Chris Smith, master of Pembroke College; two academics from the Department of Earth Sciences: Dr Jerome Neufeld and Professor Simon Redfern, the department’s head; Dr Berry Groisman and Professor Ash Amin, both signatories of the Regent House grace; Jocelyn Wyburd, director of the Language Centre; and John Shakeshaft, deputy chair of the UC. It also contains two student representative: independent student UC representative Umang Khandelwal, and Alice Guillaume, campaigns officer of student environmental group Zero Carbon.

A University spokesperson said the group was exploring the “pros and cons of divesting from fossil fuels and what activities [Cambridge] might undertake in order to facilitate movement towards a zero carbon future”.


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They said “The group has already collated evidence regarding university activity in terms of relevant research and financial interactions”, and that this term it will gather evidence through a mixture of written submissions from relevant organisations, oral evidence given by a “more limited” number of organisations, and the testimony given at the upcoming open consultations.

Khandelwal, from Newnham College, told Varsity she saw the town hall meetings “as an excellent medium for the working group to facilitate an open conversation and respectful dialogue” and to “hear diverse views on the subject”. She expressed a hope that students would attend to share their thoughts or “simply attend to learn more about the issue”.

She said the working group had already done “significant” work, saying that student representation in decision-making was strong and there has “been a conscious effort to involve multiple stakeholders via written and oral representations”.

Ticket booking for the event can be found here

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