A Ray of Sunlight in the Rain: Board of Trustees Presentation

September 26, 2013 at 5:43 am Leave a comment

Extra, extra, read all about it!

Yesterday something BIG  happened within the UNC Beyond Coal movement. Yesterday was D-Day. The day we, as a campaign, got to present to the Board of Trustees (BOT) financial board. Since becoming an organization on campus, this has been a major goal of our campaign. In order to affect change, dialogue must be sparked.



In case you missed it, here’s a recap.

Beyond Coal members at UNC, accompanied by other members of the student body, gathered on the steps of Wilson Library at 1 PM yesterday for a rally preceding our presentation at the BOT. It was raining, and although our clothes were damp- our spirits were not, and our hearts shone quite as brightly as our yellow t-shirts. We hosted many amazing speakers and we are grateful to each and every one who came out to support our efforts. Amongst them were speakers from the Campus Y – Emilio Vincente and Layla Quran (who invoked their support and offered us help in our future endeavors), Student Power- Dylan Mott, SWEAT- Charlie Reed & Emily Roberts, and the mayor of Carrboro, Mark Chilton. We give our gratitude to Mr. Chilton for battling the rain to make it out today and speaking on our behalf.



A musical performance by UNC students Carson McKee and Josh Turner followed, which was excellent! Of course, our own spoke as well- Tait Chandler gave a compelling address, and Jasmine Ruddy led chants to get everyone excited for the event that lay ahead.


Once we arrived at the Carolina Inn, the host site for these meetings, we were all nervous and buzzing with excitement. We approached the room as a solid force, entered with yellow t-shirts branding our bodies. Waiting patiently for our presentation was difficult, but everyone seemed to maintain composure, while still displaying enthusiasm for our cause.



Anurag Angara, Tait Chandler, and Jasmine Ruddy approached the podium around 2:30 pm and began to make our case. The presentation covered the history of UNC’s divestment from holdings in the apartheid regime in 1987 and its more recent divestment during the genocide in Sudan in 2008. The national context was then established: that 308 universities have divestment campaigns currently and that 6 have already divested, including one large scale public university, San Francisco State, much in likeness to our own.


The presentation went on to address the fact that 77% of students support divestment at UNC, explained why it is economically feasible and beneficial to the long term health of the endowment, and explained its environmental and human rights impacts.

The board was very receptive to our presentation. We want to thank them for that, and to acknowledge their openness. Our ask at this meeting was specifically for the board to create a working group which would conduct research in order to find out if divestment was an economically feasible solution for our university’s investment problems in the coal industry. The board did not fully deny this, but for the time being pushed it off. Instead, they, very reasonably, stated that they needed to research how much of the endowment actually was invested in coal. They did not have an exact percentage, nor could they even guess at the amount. We know for a fact that 7% of the University’s $2.2 billion endowment is invested in energy, and that part of that investment is in coal. However, we, and the board, do not know what percentage of that invested energy specifically is invested in coal. They pointed out the need to understand this before developing a working group to target divestment. Without the number, a solution for divestment would never be the topic discussed within this group.


Christy Lambden, the student body president, was extremely supportive of our campaign throughout the meeting. He fought for us tooth and nail, told us that students like us were the reason he was proud to be a tar-heel, and gave us publicity on social media.

We’d like to thank him for his support throughout the whole of yesterday, and in the past. He has been a kind and reliable asset.

At the end of our presentation, the board declared that they would follow up with us shortly, and would be fostering a campus wide discussion of divestment with regard to climate change. They assured us that they would be open to communicating with us into the foreseeable future. Even though we did not achieve a working committee as we had hoped, the board has shown us that they recognize that student voices matter. They realize that this is an issue which is important to us as a generation, and are finally willing to aid us in taking steps towards our goal of making UNC a leader in divestment. We are very pleased, and very grateful. There is still a long road ahead, but gaining the board’s trust and assurance of open discussion is a huge milestone.


“With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems”. We are now, finally, on our way towards solving this one.

-Tara Nattress

Want more information about the campaign?

 The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal 

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