Between Nov. 17 and Nov. 20, students will vote in a referendum held by the Yale College Council on whether or not Yale should divest its endowment from those fossil fuel companies contributing the most to climate change and associated social harms.
Over 50 percent of the undergraduate student body must vote in the referendum, and over 50 percent of the voters and at least one-third of the student body must vote “yes” in order for the referendum to be considered binding. According to the its website, the YCC will write a position paper in support of the referendum outcome and present it to the administration, provided that the referendum results are binding. Otherwise, the YCC will consider the results to be advisory and will subsequently choose its own position on the issue.
Before the referendum, the YCC will release multiple statements from both sides of the issue. These statements — 500 words, with 300 word rebuttals — are submitted by student organizations on campus and argue for whichever side they endorse. The YCC will also compile a list of organizations for and against divestment by Nov. 11.
The statement arguing in favor of divestment submitted by Fossil Free Yale, the student organization that proposed the referendum, is already on the YCC website. Submissions for a con statement are due on Nov. 8.
Any group that would like to hold a referendum may submit a petition to the YCC that has amassed signatures from at least 10 percent of the undergraduate student body. The YCC will then vote on the petition. If a simple majority votes for the petition, the referendum will be held. In all other cases, those who proposed the referendum must obtain signatures from 20 percent of the student body in order to have the YCC hold the referendum.
In October, the presidents of both Harvard and Brown Universities rejected proposals for fossil fuel divestment, specifically coal in Brown’s case, arguing that the universities’ divestment would have an insignificant impact on the fossil fuel industry.