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Student government holds protest urging University to divest from fossil fuels

| Friday, November 19, 2021

The sustainability department of Notre Dame student government partnered with GreeND to hold a protest Thursday evening encouraging the University to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.

Over 50 students braved the cold to attend the event. The attendees marched from DeBartolo Quad to North Quad, equipped with signs and chants to attract attention.

Ainsley Gibbs, a first-year in the student government’s sustainability department, spoke at the protest and made posters. Having witnessed devastating wildfires in her home state of Oregon that have left neighbors homeless, Gibbs said she she has seen how climate change can hurt people and that she wants to tackle the issue head on.

Shannon Lipscomb | The Observer
Students at the student government protest on DeBartolo Quad hold signs calling on the University to divest from fossil fuels.

“The reality is that the environmental crisis is going to affect almost everyone in the same way, whether it be having to lose your home or the availability of resources,” Gibbs said. “We want to see care for creation because we see that Notre Dame exists as a platform that is invested in our futures.”

Gibbs said Notre Dame must be honest and transparent regarding its endowment. She said problems relating to climate change are ever increasing, and Notre Dame could use some of its endowment to combat the crisis. Gibbs took issue with the University having a concealed endowment and board members potentially having conflicts of interest in the fossil fuels industry.

“The $12 billion endowment is undisclosed, so we actually don’t know where that money is going right now, but board members have had ties to Texaco, for example,” Gibbs said. “We hope the University discloses, divests and then works with students and faculty who are part of the community to find investments that will be socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.”

Avery Broughton, a sophomore studying sociology, global affairs and sustainability helped plan and facilitate the protest. She connected Notre Dame’s 2021-2022 Forum theme of “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future” to the theme of the protest.

“We need to take up this massive issue now,” Broughton said. “Considering the timing of sustainability being the theme of the Notre Dame Forum this year, we thought it would be a great opportunity to really bring some action to the table.”

Broughton encouraged protesters to take a deep breath of air and understand that air quality is being threatened daily by fossil fuels. She shared that she grew up near the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, the largest oil refinery on the East coast, and watched loved ones suffer.

“This was the refinery that caused my friends to develop asthma and lose loved ones,” Broughton said. “The thing about fossil fuels and oil companies is that they are silent killers.”

Gibbs and Broughton both hope the amount of students concerned about the issue will show University leaders how important the topic is. They both said Notre Dame teaches love and respect for creation through Catholic teaching and believe that the University needs to live up to its own standards.

“Today we are banging on Notre Dame’s door, and we won’t stop until we get an answer,” Broughton said. “The school I love has taught me so much about how to care for creation and to be a force for good in the world, and they know what they have to do.”

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