UCL: London’s Global-Warming University

UCL: London’s Global-Warming University

Holly Philipps reports on the die in protest staged by UCL Fossil Free outside UCL Council’s meeting

Yesterday afternoon, UCL Fossil Free staged a die in outside of a UCL Council meeting.

The protest was part of UCL Fossil Free’s long-standing campaign that urges UCL to divest their £14.5 million investments in fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP and to turn instead to greener, more ethical investments. With a turn out of around 70 present and past students, the die in was the most successful event in the campaign so far this year.

The group pretended to die in front of 188 Tottenham Court Road, where the Council meeting was to take place, causing a scene for the whole of Tottenham Court Road to see. The mass of around 70 bodies on the ground completely blocked the door, steps, ramp and surrounding pavement.

The group wore placards denouncing UCL’s investments:

“Air pollution kills 7 million a year”
“UCL stop killing our future”

And chanted:

“UCL, UCL, don’t put us in climate hell”
“What do we want? DIVESTMENT. When do we want it? NOW.”
“UCL don’t be a loser, climate change will kill our future.”

The message was very clear.

By 15:40, the first council member, Dr Martin Fry, had arrived. After the initial shock, accompanied by a few photos of the scene, the council member cautiously made his way through the students spread all over the floor, eventually making it to the door.

High profile members including UCL’s president and provost, Michael Arthur, and Ethics, Environment & Operations Officer Omar Khan were forced to clamber over the students in order to gain entry to the building.

Guin Carter, a second year Politics and Economics student, claims that the Provost asked security to “come remove this person”, gesturing towards a student, before stepping on her to enter the building.

UCL Provost attempting to enter the building

UCL Provost taking it all in his stride, literally. (credit: UCL Fossil Free)

One member of the UCL Council refused to enter like the others, claiming it was “too undignified to walk over pretend dead students”.

Provost and President Michael Arthur told Pi: “I respect the right of the students to protest peacefully within the law and acknowledge that such an event occurred at the entrance to the venue for the UCL Council meeting this week.  UCL Council has procedures for considering requests to divest on ethical grounds and it had already initiated that process in this case.  The ethical investments review committee will now undertake its work and will report to Council in due course”.

Pi spoke to Beth Parkin, the organiser of the event, who said “We [Fossil Free UCL] want UCL to be a global world leader in stopping fossil fuel companies from leading us straight into climate chaos. We need UCL to stop contradicting their own research, we need them to abide by their own ethical investment code and to stop investing in fossil fuel companies”.

UCL’s very own guiding principles state that UCL will conduct itself ethically and fairly, and in an environmentally sustainable manner, locally, nationally and globally. UCL Fossil Free argue that investment in the fossil fuel industry is a clear violation of this principle.

Yesterday’s protest was also partly in response to the fact that UCL Fossil Free has now been completely cut out of the decision making process with the Council, when they were previously in discussions with them. Openly protesting is now the only option that group has left.

Pekka Piiraninen and David Powe, both from UCL Fossil Free have said that yesterday’s protest is just the beginning of the campaign this year, and that we should “Expect much bigger events in the very near future coordinated with groups within the University of London and all over the city and the globe”. Pi will keep you updated with any progress.

If you want to support the campaign, sign the UCL Fossil Free Petition.

Featured image credit: Holly Philipps

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