“Divest, Disarm, Decolonise.”
Those were the compelling words that echoed through the streets of Cambridge, England. Angry students congregated in retaliation to Cambridge University and its constituent colleges’ investments towards fossil fuels and arms companies. There have been multiple public objections to this in the past.
In a joint effort, student activist groups such as Cambridge Decolonisation Network, Demilitarise Cambridge, Cambridge University Palestine Society, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, and Cambridge Defend Education amassed a crowd of 270 at the Senate House on November 16, 2018, to protest the 800 years old institution’s decision to continue funding fossil fuel and arms companies. Chanting “Divest, Disarm, Decolonise,” students lit off flares and banged doors threatening to break it down. Pink, orange, and black smoke filled the air as more and more students joined the rally calling for full divestment.
A spokesperson for Cambridge Zero Carbon said, “We stand together with campaigns from across the University to demand immediate divestment, disarmament, and decolonization. We are united, and we will win”.
According to Varsity, a joint statement was also made by the organizers.
“Today our campaigns joined forces, mobilizing hundreds of students to say no to this institution’s legitimization of the destructive actions of arms and fossil fuels companies. This University must cut all ties and it must act now, otherwise, it can have no hope of addressing its colonial past and present.”
In an analysis done by Varsity and Cherwell, it was found that Oxford and Cambridge colleges are “investing tens of millions of pounds in fossil fuel, arms and tobacco companies accused of harming the environment, funding climate change denial, and committing human rights abuse”. For example, Cherwell reports that St Anne’s College was found to have large investments in corporations previously accused of selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia. Some technologies they sell are key ingredients to building nuclear weapons and others which are possibly used to commit human rights abuses. One example of this would be Saudia Arabia’s long conflict with Yemen, causing what people call “the worst humanitarian crisis.”
One student shouted to the crowd, calling for a complete restructuring of universities’ investments system and its staff.
Judging the intensity and fervent passion of the crowd, this is definitely not their first protest. Earlier this year, calls for universities to divest in arms companies and fossil fuels were amplified with a six-day occupation of the Greenwich House, an important university administrative building, and a six-day hunger strike by three student activists that successfully got administrators to review their current practices.
What Colleges/Universities Invested In Those Companies?
According to Varsity, they reached out to 20 colleges in November and a few were discovered to have large investments in the arms industry and corporations including BAE Systems, United Technologies, Airbus SE and Lockheed Martin.
Here are the colleges:
- Emmanuel College with £2.9m ($3,724,731) invested in two arms companies, Airbus SE and United Technologies.
- Trinity College with £2.5m ($3,210,975), in eight companies: BAE Systems, Caterpillar Inc, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Textron, and Thales Group.
- Selwyn College previously held £532k ($683,296) worth of investments in General Electric.
- Darwin College with over £320k ($411,005) in British arms company BAE Systems.
What Is the University of Cambridge Known For?
Founded in 1209 in Cambridge, England, Cambridge University is a public research university. With more than 18,000 students and over 11,000 staff, the institute has 31 constituent Colleges, 150 Departments, faculties, schools, and other institutions.
In 2015, their acceptance rate for students was only 21% and tuition for undergraduates goes up to $12,000 a year. According to Times Higher Education, Cambridge currently holds second for the best school in the world.