Around 30 campaigners painted messages on the outside walls of Old SchoolsNoella Chye

The University claimed today that the chalk paint sprayed on the walls of its central Old Schools building by pro-divestment campaigners earlier this week has seeped into the limestone walls of the building.

The Old Schools building, which is legally mandated to be protected from demolition, extensions or alterations because of its listing as a site of special historical or architectural importance, will be cleaned by external contractors at what a spokesperson described as “a significant cost”.

Cambridge Zero Carbon had previously promised to clean the walls "when the University stops investing" in fossil fuel companies Noella Chye

A spokesperson for the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, which previously stated: “We’re happy to wash this chalk off ourselves when the University stops investing in this destructive industry”, responded to the University’s claims: “We are in a time of climate crisis. There is just a 5% chance of remaining below the universally acknowledged 2 degrees celsius warming limit, while millions are being already being displaced by climate breakdown. Yet the University is choosing to continue funding the industry most responsible for this.

“While we acknowledge the work that will go into removing the chalk spray, we invite the University to compare the possible damage done to one wall to the crimes of the fossil fuel industry.”

The chalk spray-painted words, ‘Cambridge divest from fossil fuels’, have remained on the walls of the Old Schools building three days after activists first spray painted the building on Monday 14th May, in the first of a series of increased efforts to push the University to fully divest ahead of its highly-anticipated decision on Monday 21st May, for which a rally just outside Senate House is planned.


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The pro-divestment society spokesperson added: “This is an industry that is actively planning for an increase of 5 degrees celsius. An industry that knew about climate change for decades, but continued its destructive practices. An industry that has been accused of outrageous human rights abuses, with Amnesty International arguing that Shell were complicit in the murder of Ken Saro-Wira and eight other activists in 1995. This is the industry the University continues to fund, and we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Tomorrow, the University will undertake initial tests “to determine if the paint can be removed fully without damaging the stone”, after which it will determine the exact costs of the paint’s removal.