University of Auckland students are intensifying a push to encourage the university to divest from harmful industries such as fossil fuels, gun manufacturers and tobacco. The Auckland University Student Association voted to endorse the call for divestment after Fossil Free University of Auckland staged a mock "Unethical Stock Market" at the general meeting on Wednesday 21 October.

Fossil Free UoA is asking the university to establish an ethical investment policy like many of its Australasian counterparts.

"This has been done by organisations around the world who are waking up to the reality of climate change and other social issues," said Fossil Free UoA Spokesperson Alex Johnston. "They are divesting from harmful industries to take an ethical stance."

Among universities that have divested in fossil fuels are Victoria University, Otago University and the Group of Eight, the group of leading Australian universities.

Advertisement

Johnston says Auckland University needs to "catch up."

The skit performed by Fossil Free UoA, demonstrated how pressure from students has influenced other universities' divestment decisions, while Auckland University is still "bidding" on unethical industries. Demonstrators dressed up as Exxon Mobil, British American Tobacco and Smith and Wesson, while an auctioneer sold "shares" in each company to the disapproval of onlooking students.

Fossil Free University of Auckland Spokesperson Alex Johnston speaks at the Student Association general meeting. Photo / Alexandra Wimley
Fossil Free University of Auckland Spokesperson Alex Johnston speaks at the Student Association general meeting. Photo / Alexandra Wimley

Over 2,400 students, faculty and staff have signed a petition over seven months with three demands: immediately freezing new divestments in the fossil fuel industry, divesting all holdings from the fossil fuel industry within five years and screening for, and excluding, investments in fossil fuels from all entities' future investment portfolios. The petition has a goal of 3,000 signatures.

Divestment is "financially prudent, ethically right and politically effective," said Johnston. "It sends a message to the fossil fuel industry that we no longer accept that they can continue to pollute and cause public health risks."

At the call for a vote, there was a resounding "aye" among the more than 200 students gathered at the University of Auckland for the meeting.

Fossil Free University of Auckland members pose after the demonstration. Photo / Alexandra Wimley
Fossil Free University of Auckland members pose after the demonstration. Photo / Alexandra Wimley

For more information or to sign the petition visit campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/auckland-uni-ethically-invested-and-fossil-free
Like what you see? For weekly Element news sign up to our newsletter. We're also on Facebook and Twitter.