The student was convicted of causing a nuisance after scaling an M25 gantryCressida Gethin with permission for Varsity

Cambridge University gives legitimacy to companies that “kill people around the world” through its fossil fuel partnerships, a Cambridge student and Just Stop Oil activist has said.

Cressida Gethin, who studies music, was convicted of causing a nuisance after scaling a gantry over the M25 in July 2022. Two years after the incident, the student shared her sentiments towards Cambridge’s relationships with fossil fuel companies.

Gethin told Varsity that Cambridge’s ties with companies such as Schlumberger result in environmental harm by the sheer amount of money involved in these financial transactions. It also contributes to the social legitimacy of companies engaged in destructive practices, the student alleged.

Though the University recently approved a temporary ban on partnerships with the oil and gas industry, sources have emphasised that the policy is temporary. The moratorium also encourages the body which deals with University donations (CBELA) to “defer making decisions” on funding, rather than refusing cash outright.

Cambridge has been part of the “fabric of UK society” which has historically relied heavily on fossil fuels for its development, so “why would the University be any different?” Gethin said.

According to the Financial Times, the university has accepted £19.7 million from oil giants BP and Shell between 2016 and 2023.

The JSO activist, who was originally involved with Cambridge Climate Justice, a student group, told Varsity that she felt the “magnitude and fundamental nature of the problem” had now evolved into a broader social concern for society as a whole.

She emphasises the potential ripple effect of change at a smaller Cambridge level, but expressed a preference for directing her efforts towards “the big game”.

She claimed that if she were to engage in any further campaigning, it would be aimed at addressing the entirety of the issue on a larger scale.

This comes as the protester was convicted of causing a nuisance in February this year when she scaled a gantry over the M25 on 20 July 2022 to protest the UK reaching its hottest temperature on record, 40 °C, the day before.

“[I] could not just let it go by”, the protester told Varsity.

She claims her protest was a “manageable inconvenience” in relation to the impact of climate change.

During her trial, the court heard the protest delayed 3,923 British Airways passengers’ journeys. Speaking outside Isleworth Crown Court, the student affirmed she did not regret the protest and would “not back down”.

She told Varsity that the “political system is too incapacitated to do anything” about the issue of climate change.


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She also detailed “the physical ease” with which she was able to carry out the protest. She argued that an act that “creates so much disruption” and deserving of the charge that she received should be “swashbuckling”.

“I literally climbed down a bar and up a ladder”, she shared. Gethin described it as a “surreal moment”.

Police had to close the motorway in both directions, causing severe delays for around nine hours. The student also affirmed that she did not know she was near Heathrow at the time, but maintains it wasn’t an “unreasonable place to go”.

Earlier this week, Gethin told Chris Packham, TV presenter and environmental activist, that she would “do it again”.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.