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Stanford Students Stage Sit-In, Want University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

STANFORD (CBS SF) – More than 100 students are holding a sit-in at Stanford University Monday afternoon to call on school leaders and administrators to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The students are outside university president John Hennessy's office and have no plans to leave until the college declares a divestment from the fossil fuel industry, student Yari Greaney said.

Greaney, 22, a master's student obtaining a degree in earth system science, said students have been communicating with school administrators, who told them they have to go through a bureaucratic process to address their concerns. She said that process has proven to be slow.

Greaney is an administration liaison for Fossil Free Stanford, a student organization comprised of undergraduate and graduate students that organized the sit-in.

For the past three years, the group has been working with the university's Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, which can recommend the board of trustees to make the divestment, according to Greaney.

Fossil Free Stanford is asking for the board to immediately hold a special vote on divesting from the top 100 oil and gas companies with the most carbon in their reserves, Greaney said.

"There are a lot of real solutions to climate change out there, but right now it's very difficult for them to take center stage because the fossil fuel industry is so powerful," she said.

"This industry does not have our best interests in supporting communities and lives around the world, Greaney said.

Greaney and two other students met with Hennessy last week to address the issue, but she said he was dismissive of their concerns.

More than 379 faculty members have signed off on a letter in support of the cause, she said.

Emma Walker-Silverman, 20, said the university has been unresponsive to their request.

"If our university is investing in our future we don't want them to be investing in companies that threaten the future," Walker-Silverman said.

Students are setting up tents and sitting in the arcade of the main quad near Hennessy's office Monday afternoon, according to Walker-Silverman.

Walker-Silverman said she has seen climate change first-hand in her hometown of Telluride, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains.

She has seen more forest fires, less snow in the winter and other changes in a short span of time in the mining town and recognized that there are other people around the world living in more dire conditions because of climate change.

Last year, the university divested from coal, a decision that the 20-year-old psychology major said proved the university understands the urgency of the issue.

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said addressing the students concerns is "not a rapid process."

Stanford University was one of the first major universities to divest from coal last year, a year and a half after Fossil Free Stanford submitted a petition seeking the change, Lapin said.

Administrators are studying the request in regard to fossil fuel, according to Lapin.

"There's a lot to consider and the students have been fully apprised of everything that's happening," Lapin said.

Hennessy and board of trustees president Steven Denning signed off on an Oct. 28 letter to Laurent Fabius, president of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference being held later this month in Paris.

The letter asks conference participants to look at universities in addressing climate change and mentions that the board of trustees is expected to hear about fossil fuel divestment in the current academic year.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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