UGS seeks fossil fuel divestment and debates senator’s expulsion

UGS seeks fossil fuel divestment and debates senator’s expulsion

At the Undergraduate Senate’s last scheduled meeting in the 2023-2024 academic year, tensions flared amid a vote on fossil fuel divestment and a proposed bill considered removing senator Carmen Kang ’26 from her role. 

The UGS unanimously approved a joint resolution seeking to sanction companies and provide accountability, while protecting faculty and student academic freedom. Three senators abstained.

Graduate Student Council (GSC) councilor Perry Nielsen M.S. ’24 presented for the second time about the bill, which responds to a congressional report on fossil fuel funding and its impact on industry-related research at elite universities, including Stanford. 

While senators acknowledged the overall positive impact of the bill, some questioned the implication of the bill in national context. 

Senator Noah Maltzman ’25 questioned the last clause of the bill that bans major fossil fuel companies from engaging with Stanford through on-campus career fairs and virtual recruitment or providing funding to Industrial Affiliate Programs.

He called the potential effect on students’ careers a “drastic jump” from the institutional policies recommended by the bill. Nielsen said that fossil fuel companies do have an opportunity to re-engage with the University: “We’re allowing them the chance to change themselves to give us a plan… to not actually be involved [with fossil fuels].” 

Jared Hammerstrom ’27 also criticized the last clause despite “wholeheartedly supporting not working with those companies.”

“By being at Stanford, you’re surrounded by some of the smartest students in the world… these are the types of people that we need working on these projects with these major fossil fuel companies,” Hammerstrom said.

Acknowledging senators’ concerns, Nielsen said the bill was trying to separate research from people who “directly and financially benefit from said research.” 

Following a vote which approved the resolution, senator Mandla Msipa ’26 introduced a bill to expel Carmen Kang ’26 from the 26th Undergraduate Senate. 

Kang was recently embroiled in a case lodged with the ASSU Constitutional Council where she accused six fellow senators of election fraud and harassment, among other complaints. The case was dropped by Kang last Friday.

The bill claimed that Kang tried to disrupt the inauguration of new senators with the timing of her complaint. In the meeting, Kang said it is “only a speculation” with “no direct evidence proving her intention” behind the claim. 

Kang questioned the legality of Msipa’s bill as it was not presented at the working session last Thursday. Senator Ivy Chen ’26 said that the bill was legal according to the ASSU bylaws. Msipa said that the reason the bill was introduced “last-minute” was because he was not originally planning to write the bill, but felt “that it was important.”

Kang said that Msipa texted her prior to the meeting to ask her to voluntarily resign. “There is no point in me arguing [to] try to prove my innocence because this is something that was expected,” Kang said.

Msipa read the text out loud in the meeting. His message acknowledged the criticism Kang had received on social media and urged her to consider resigning from the UGS, while thanking her for “all the good [she] did.” 

The UGS hostsa special meeting on June 4 to vote on the bill to expel Kang. 

Senator Ethan Alfonso ’27 said the UGS would prioritize its responsibilities to students. 

“As we work on these internal matters, I want the general public to know that our hearts and our advocacy still lies with you,” Alfonso said.

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