UT's investments are not only a student concern; they are a community concern.
Thursday night, the UT Coalition for Responsible Investment hosted a fundraiser at the Birdhouse to raise money for typhoon victims in the Philippines and spread awareness for their divestment campaign. Seeking to freeze all fossil fuel company holdings in UT's portfolio, the coalition hopes to expand support for their petition beyond campus.
Kristen Collins, senior in environmental studies, along with Daniel Lawhon, junior in physics and electrical engineering, organized the event to continue promoting their platform. Last week, the campaign presented the petition to the faculty senate. Deciding to review the divestment proposition in their budget and planning committee, the Senate will make a decision at their next meeting in February.
Attendees said they felt compelled to support victims of the storm after viewing the catastrophe as an outcome of climate change.
"Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was a disaster, and it is up to us to raise money to help the victims," Erica Davis, a sophomore in sociology, said. "Just like it's up to the University of Tennessee to stop funding the fossil fuel industry that in turn causes climate change that then causes natural disasters like the typhoon."
Local bands, including Biscuitheads, the Folk You Buddies, Drowsy Cow Pokes and In La Kesh, donated their talents to help draw a crowd.
Between sets, guests could sign the petition, help decorate a banner or write letters to the UT administration. Through such measures, Collins said she hopes to persuade administrators to consider the proposal.
"We're going to use them when we go to the administration to let them know that students care about divestment," Collins said. "It's not just getting a petition signed. We're doing more."
The Birdhouse, a Knoxville community house, provided a backdrop for the event.
"The mission is to bring community together to hold legislatures accountable, and we have to involve the entire community in these issue," Collins said. "A community house is the perfect place to do so because it invites everyone."
In fact, community members present outnumbered students.
"It's a lot of new people that haven't been involved before that are going to get involved now," Jake Rainey, senior in journalism and electronic media, said.
Echoing the importance of community, Ana Reboredo, senior in ecology and evolutionary biology, said she sees the divestment campaign as a way to link the university to the city of Knoxville.
"I think it's important for the entire community to become more involved," Reboredo said. "Especially since divestment campaigns are not just about getting universities to divest, but also about getting cities to move away from fossil fuel investments. We need to reach out to all local institutions so that we can have the biggest impact."
Raising $400, attendees and organizers considered the event a success.
"I think the event went really well," Reboredo said. "We got people interested in divestment, made some new friends, raised money for the hurricane victims and supported local bands. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and it was for a good cause."