June 18, 2019

Students want Webster to divest from fossil fuels

12 students created a petition to urge Webster to change its spending.

A group of students, staff and faculty aim to get Webster University to divest its money from entities that support fossil fuel energy.

Sophomore Stephen Jung is part of a group of students of 12 students that want to petition Webster to change their spending. Other schools around the world starting similar campaigns inspired the group to come together, he said. Students at Washington University and St. Louis University have started petitions to demand change from their administration.

As a student ambassador, Jung said he joined the group because he believed Webster should invest in renewable energy. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, Missouri produces 80 percent of its energy from coal.

“[Our message] is an attempt to have a university that will state the importance of the environment, but also puts its money where its mouth is,” Jung said.

Josephine Phillips, a freshman music major, helped organize the movement. She and other students drafted a petition for students and faculty to sign.

Phillips said she believes the movement will be popular with students because of the amount of environmentally minded young people.

The petition is open for faculty, too. Kate Parsons, a philosophy professor, signed the petition. She has been vocal about her support for the group to campaign for a better environmental agenda.

Parsons said her biggest hope is that the group influence where the university puts its money.

I’d love to see this group lead to productive, cooperative conversations on campus,” Parsons said. “I’m optimistic that the university will work with them.”

“We go at it with the desire to communicate and come up with solutions rather than demand a change,” Jung said.

The group reached out to the Sustainability Coalition and the Webster Student Government Association. Phillips and Jung both said they did not want to be tied to a certain group because it is a project for everyone.

Some larger schools have already succeeded in their campaigns to put their investments outside of fossil fuels. Syracuse, Yale and Stanford Universities have already completely pulled out or partially pulled out of fossil fuel interests.

In 2015, The Journal reported that the Sisters of Loretto, the founding organization of Webster, also divested from fossil fuels.

Jung said the group opted to remain nameless because it is not affiliated with any specific group or policy.

He said the group wants to meet with the board of trustees, the president and the faculty senate, although Jung is not sure how or when. Jung said he does not want a revolution but a conversation.

The change will take time, Phillips said. She mentioned the group has plans to finish the movement by 2021.

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