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University of York divests from fossil fuels

Speaking to students the new Vice Chancellor said: "We have an obligation to act... We will see massive change here in this University."

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Image Credit: Kenueone

In his inaugural speech on 3 October, York’s new Vice Chancellor,Charlie Jeffery, announced that the University of York had fully divested from fossil fuels. The shock announcement comes following a student led campaign to get the University to divest. The campaign culminated in a petition with over 1200 signatures being handed to the University by former Nouse Editor and Environment and Ethics Officer, Oscar Bentley. The announcement means that the £217,000 which the University of York previously invested in fossil fuel companies is now invested in companies whose activities are in line with the ethical values of the University.

Speaking to students the new Vice Chancellor said: “We face a global climate emergency. We have brilliant expertise, including among our students, who are of-ten passionate about tackling that emergency, and we have an obligation to act.” Speaking later ,the Vice Chancellor said that “we will see massive change here in this University.” He went on to state that the University would be drawing up a detailed plan for how it will react to the climate crisis. Nouse spoke to the University’s Environment and Ethics Officers, Merry Dickinson and Mark Matthews,following the announcement. They told us: “We’re very happy it’s about time, it’s been needing to happen for years.” The announcement was met by a large round of applause from the audience.

It was the new Vice Chancellor’s first public address about his plans for the University and his vision since he arrived here a month ago. Charlie Jeffery was picked as the new Vice Chancellor following an “extensive search.” Mr. Jeffery,the former Senior Vice-Principal at the University of Edinburgh. Be-fore that he was a professor of Politics at the University of York.

Speaking to the crowd he thanked the University of York,the students and the local community for giving him and his family such a warm welcome following his move to the city of York from Edinburgh. During his speech he set out how he intended to carry out his job while honouring the University’s founding principles and values. Throughout his speech, the Vice Chancellor made references to the University’s history, former students and the founders’ experience and wishes.

A key component of the speech was the idea that universities should be contributing to the wider public good of the local community and the country and the planet.The Vice Chancellor emphasised that he wanted the University to do more to engage with the local communities and area, saying that not enough people feel the benefits of living near the University. Despite this, he attacked the view that universities and academics are some-how aloof, or part of a liberal elite.Making a gibe at Government Minister, Michael Gove, the new Vice Chancellor joked that while some people had had enough of experts, he had not.Jeffery also reinforced his commitment to internationalism and all it does for the University by making a gibe at Theresa May’s famous speech, where she declared“if you are a citizen of the world,you are a citizen of nowhere.” Referencing to two former students,Tom and Betty, he declared that York undergraduates were citizens of the world.

Rounding off his speech the Vice Chancellor stated that he did not only want to manage the University and prepare it for the next few years, he also wanted to think in terms of decades, reflecting along-term vision. The speech was widely welcomed by students, and YUSU, however the real challenge is whether the goals set out in the speech can be achieved. Jeffery’s entrance to York has been accompanied by a much requested policy:it remains to be seen if his future ideas are as popular with students

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