On Wednesday Oct. 23, the Foothill-De Anza Foundation voted unanimously to stop investing in fossil fuel companies, making it the first community college foundation in the nation to commit to divestment.
A student-led campaign to divest from fossil fuels originated as a student project in one of Nicky Gonzalez Yuen’s political science classes last fall at De Anza College.
The class focused on environmental issues and Yuen encouraged his students to take action.
A group of students chose to team up with the non-profit organization 350.org, which focuses on divesting from fossil fuels.
Institute of Community and Civic Engagement director Cynthia Kaufman said the students chose to work on the campaign because they believed fossil fuels were the root of the problem and needed to be addressed to act on environmental issues.
The students involved were taken under the wing of Students for Justice and together they hosted meetings and events to create dialogue, said Karla Navarro, one of the lead student organizers for ICCE.
“We addressed the foundation board in August, asking them to divest and we were really fortunate to have encouraging staff and board members,” Navarro said.
The foundation board told the students they would take the issue to the finance committee, investigate, and then vote in October.
“October came around and we started receiving emails saying that the foundation board was going to meet and we were pretty confident that this was going to pass,” Navarro said.
FHDA foundation board set a deadline to begin divesting by June 30, 2014.
“We’re really fortunate,” Navarro said. “We asked the board to divest within a five-year course, but they’re actually divesting a lot quicker than we expected.”
The foundation’s treasurer, Martin Neiman said the changes shouldn’t have a major effect on the foundation’s investment returns, according to the district website.
In fact, Neiman said divestment advocates suggest divesting may be a wise investment strategy in the long term, according to the district website.
What De Anza has done will inspire others, Kaufman said. “350.org is hosting a conference and we’re hoping De Anza can speak about how we were able to do it.”
The main purpose of student organizers is to encourage other students to be leaders.
“When you find an issue that really moves you, just talk to people and figure out where there’s a student group, a club, or a teacher that’s interested in the same thing you are and you can start something,” Navarro said.