Student activists and a local artist are teaming up to create a 14-foot tall mural on a University of Victoria campus building to protest the administrations’ continued investments in the fossil fuel industry.
According to one of the organizers, Emily Lowan, approximately eight students and local artist Emily Thiessen, will be at UVic between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Wednesday November 18 to paint a mural that says “President Hall, Time to Divest”.
These words will be painted on the front-facing main entryway of the Michael Williams Administrative Building during the physically distanced live-art protest event held in a continued effort to get UVic to divest their $400 million investment funds away from the fossil fuel industry.
“Students have been campaigning for the university to remove their investment funds from fossil fuel industry since 2013. This is a very long standing campaign for the student society,” said Lowan in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.
“We’ve been trying a number of tactics to alert the administration to student values and what we want to see them invest student dollars in. That’s the motivation for this action.”
This particular event was inspired by the fact that the school has a newly instated President who has been vocal about his commitments to sustainability and Indigenous reconciliation.
Lowan says students saw President Kevin Hall’s takeover as an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and hopefully a partnership.
“This is going to be a student event but I’m personally having a meeting on the following day with President Hall to discuss the action and look at steps moving forward,” said Lowan.
The mural will not be permanent, as it will be painted using temporary chalk-based paint, and Lowan says the group does not expect any repercussions from the administration as a result.
Earlier this year, the University of Victoria board of governors approved a policy to reduce investments in fossil fuels in the short term, which they claim will reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
But students in the Divest UVic movement said this was nowhere near enough.
“The impact of this policy is limited as it only applies to the smallest (and already greenest) of UVic’s three main investment funds,” reads a statement from Lowan.
“This policy has led many to feel as though the administration under past leadership prioritized greenwashing over meaningful action.”
In response, a spokesperson for UVic emailed the following statement to Victoria Buzz:
“The university agrees climate change is a key global issue of our time and understands that students want to make their views known.”
“We expect that they will hold a peaceful event that respects university property as we continue to work together to address this critical issue.”