New pressure on University to divest as college bedsheets used in banner drop stunt

Elsa Maishman 5 November 2015

Students protested on Wednesday against the University of Cambridge’s investment in fossil fuels. 

The students, from the newly relaunched Zero Carbon Cambridge society, draped painted bed sheets from King’s, Clare and Garret Hostel Bridge (commonly known as Orgasm Bridge), in an attempt to draw more attention to the issue of divestment. 

However, few students passed through the protest, which was quickly shut down on Clare Bridge by the College’s porters. Magdalene porters also arrived after reports that their students were involved in the protest. They told students that they were “bringing this College into disrepute” and that they might report them to their College dean.

At least one of the sheets that were used were owned by Magdalene College. The slogans on the bedsheets included “Cambridge clean up your act”, “Fossil free future” and “Where does £5bn go?”

Many spectators seemed unimpressed with the protest, with one American tourist saying “we didn’t really know what [the banners] meant, but at least there’s students on every bridge who can talk to us.” Yet while one passing punting guide shouted “It’s the University not the city, that’s two different things, here,” another called out their support.

The University of Cambridge’s  endowment currently stands at £2.8 billion while the University is pledged to act with “selflessness”. 

Despite this, the Statement of Investment Responsibility allows the University to “balance against its primary responsibility considerations of the ethical nature of investments.”

The  University is currently carrying out a wide-ranging investigation, between officials, academics and students, into how the endowment is invested. It is believed to include investments into fossil fuels.

Zero Carbon Cambridge has also launched a petition for fossil fuel divestment, which gained over 800 signatures in 24 hours. 
The society commented on the protest: “Just two weeks ago the University issued a video addressed to the entire world, presenting donations to Cambridge as an investment in the future. If the world wants to invest in it, Cambridge University must return the favour, and invest in a sustainable future.”

The protest by Zero Carbon comes after an open meeting at Magdalene College on Monday, in which the students voted for the “creation of a forum” to talk about investments within the College, where an ethical investment policy can be created. One student, Anna Fruehauf,  was not pursuaded by the protest, believing that the University should continue to invest in fossil fuels, commenting, “Maybe it’s more efficient to reform inside, instead of outside of the system.”