PRESS RELEASE: Warwick Agrees to Initiate Dialogue with BP over Archive Arrangements

UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK INITIATES TALKS WITH BP OVER TERMS OF BP ARCHIVE

  • The University of Warwick is to initiate talks with BP regarding changing arrangements of the lease of the BP archive on Warwick campus
  • Talks follow BP Off Campus campaign by student activist group Fossil Free Warwick

The University of Warwick are to initiate dialogue with oil corporation BP with regard to changing the arrangements of the lease of the BP archive. The archive is BP’s only UK-based corporate archive, and is currently housed in the Modern Records Centre on Warwick University’s campus.

These talks follow pressure from the BP Off Campus campaign, an effort coordinated by student activist group Fossil Free Warwick University, calling on the University of Warwick to sever all ties with BP. (1) The BP Off Campus campaign has criticised the presence of the archive on Warwick campus on the grounds that it legitimates the environmental destruction of fossil fuel companies like BP – in the company’s own words, the purpose of the archive is to “to enhance its reputation”. (2) The archive – for which BP has a rent-free 50-year lease – is staffed and controlled entirely by BP employees. It’s thought to holds key research into renewable energy conducted by BP during the 80s and 90s, which University staff and students have no access to. (3)

Following widespread pressure on Warwick over the presence and terms of the Archive, members of senior management, including Ken Sloan, the Registrar, agreed to meet with representatives from Fossil Free Warwick and Warwick SU. In the meeting, they agreed take the group’s demands and concerns to BP and initiate talks around the Archive arrangements.

The demands of the BP Off Campus campaign, and those which the University management are taking to BP for discussion, are for the University to sever all ties with BP. This would involve the University taking control of the archive, to be managed by University archivists in the public interest, rather than the interest of BP’s private profit motive.

“The fact that the University management is in dialogue with BP regarding changing the terms of agreement of the archive is a victory for the BP Off Campus campaign,” says Clare Hymer, a member of Fossil Free Warwick. “We see this as an important step in getting our University to sever all ties with BP and breaking the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry over public institutions more widely.”

These developments come off the back of the success of Fossil Free Warwick’s divestment campaign, which prompted Warwick University to pledge to divest from fossil fuels in July last year (3). This year, Fossil Free Warwick have been specifically targeting the BP Archive, culminating in a march and rally to the Archive last term.

“For BP to have what is essentially a legitimating propaganda tool in the middle of a university campus is an affront to academic freedom and action on climate change,” says Connor Woodman, a member of Fossil Free Warwick. “It’s also clearly inconsistent with their prior commitment to divest from these companies, including BP, on moral grounds.”

[ENDS]

Contacts:

 

Clare Hymer, clare.hymer@cantab.net

Connor Woodman, c.d.w.woodman@warwick.ac.uk

NOTES:

 

PRESS RELEASE: Warwick Agrees to Initiate Dialogue with BP over Archive Arrangements

Academic Freedom, Corporate Relationships, and the BP Archive

Archives are essential repositories where information can be stored for posterity, sorted for investigation, and arranged for the public good. Historians, researchers, journalists, campaigners – all draw on the rich documentary record contained in governmental, organisational and corporate archives.

We should welcome such archives to our campus. They benefit our community and signal the prestige of our institution. The BP Archive, however, is no such institution of academic progression.

Imagine that our campus housed an archive on the old Russian intelligence service, the KGB. Imagine this archive not only contained the documentary record of the KGB, but was entirely controlled and staffed by KGB officers.

Imagine still more that the KGB was leased half of one of the finest buildings on campus, rent-free. The KGB – an intelligence service which perpetrated human rights abuses, disseminated propaganda, and more – controlled the entire flow of information to those who wanted to view it. They used it to promote their reputation, and conceal their crimes. Crucial documents regarding historical periods of great interest to the public were kept in utter secrecy.

If this hypothetical situation pertained in reality, one would expect an outcry. Students and staff would demand this heinous intelligence service vacate campus, and hand over the documents to the University’s expert archivists, who could manage them in the public interest.

This is actually directly analogous to the situation at the University of Warwick today. BP – a company which was just branded the top European company blocking the transition to a renewable energy system, is accused of complicity in serious human rights abuses in Colombia, and is responsible for the worst off-shore oil spill in history – controls and manages its only UK-based corporate archive on our campus.

This Archive isn’t used as a neutral vassal for academic knowledge, but, in BP’s own words, to “enhance its reputation”. Billions of pounds worth of vital renewable technology research conducted by the company – before it sold off most of its renewable interests – is kept sealed away from everyone, due to its pre-1976 access rule (and despite public claims to the contrary by Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s Chairman). The flow of information is controlled from start to finish, BP vetting all documents for “commercial sensitivity” before allowing them to be viewed, and maintaining a veto over any articles or documents researchers wish to put into the public domain. The staff openly state that their “primary focus is on supporting the BP businesses globally”. The University has absolutely no control over any of this, and has absurdly handed over 59% of the Modern Records Centre to BP for 50 years, rent-free.

Fossil Free Warwick University believes that access to these files should not be determined by a for-profit company, and that this necessarily conflicts with the aim of the University: to be a place of transparent research and unfettered academic inquiry, functioning in the public interest. Indeed, we believe that the notorious lack of transparency at the Archive is not incidental, but a direct consequence of it being subject to direct corporate control.

As such, when we say we want ‘BP Off Campus’, what we are demanding is that the relationship between BP and the University be completely severed, and that we stop being complicit in this horrific company’s propaganda efforts. Our central demand is for control of the Archive to be handed over the MRC, to be managed in the public interest, and in-line with academic standards of free inquiry.

The point mustn’t be lost that BP is a fundamentally appalling company. Allowing it to carve out an enclave in the middle of campus lends it legitimacy and suggests that we’re happy to be making deals with such an organisation. As Chris Maughan, IAS fellow and sessional tutor, says: “The relationship between the University of Warwick and the BP Archive must be overhauled. Not only do the current arrangements constitute an affront to the democratic value of open and accessible archives but also certainly contribute in shameful ways to the ‘greenwashing’ of BP’s public image.”

Academic Freedom, Corporate Relationships, and the BP Archive

Warwick Ignores Fossil Free’s Freedom of Information Request

The relationship between Warwick University and BP is murky. Few in the know want to talk about it, and little information is in the public domain.

We’ve submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the University to discover a little more about the BP Archive and the relation it has to Warwick.

The questions we wanted answered were:

  • Does BP pay any annual rent for the Archive space? According to documents from the Land Registry, they pay none.
  • Why was ownership of the Modern Records Centre seemingly transferred from the ownership of the University to then-trustees in 1996? And why has it seemingly not been transferred to new trustees since?

We also wanted to get access to:

  • Any further agreements between the University and BP which are not accessible through the Land Registry, from 1990 to the present day.
  • Correspondence between senior management and BP regarding discussions they’ve had about the Archive, and any discussions they’ve had about Fossil Free Warwick.

We submitted the FOI on Sept. 20. Under the FOIA 2000, a public authority has 20 working days to respond to a request. It is now 36 working days since we submitted the request, and we have still received no response, in violation of the law.

After the first 20 days elapsed, we contacted Warwick to chase them up. They claimed they were seeking clarification on the wording of the request, and since they hadn’t heard back from us, were going to terminate the process. We never received this ‘clarification email’, as is shown on the publicly available correspondence: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/bp_and_bp_archive#outgoing-486357.

Since their demand for clarification only pertained to part of the original request, we expected a response from the University to other parts of the request. We never received this. We offered our clarification on the remaining parts of the request, and expected to hear back with the University’s response. We are still waiting.

Universities in general – and Warwick is a leader in the pack – are notoriously opaque, and do anything they can to avoid releasing information under the FOI Act. We know of numerous cases where Warwick has ignored emails, failed to respond within the statutory limit, and wielded ‘exemptions’ under the law which push the boundaries of logic and legality. The ‘Legal Compliance Team’ is seemingly there to ensure Warwick releases as little information as possible, whilst cloaking such anti-democratic processes in the veneer of legality.

Warwick, what are you trying to hide?

Warwick Ignores Fossil Free’s Freedom of Information Request

BP Off Campus: Letter to Management

Below is the letter we have submitted to the senior management of the University of Warwick calling upon them to remove the BP Archive from campus.

Sept. 25, 2015

Registrar Ken Sloan and other senior management,

BP’s Presence on Campus

We call upon the University to sever its links with BP. In particular, we call on you to ask BP to vacate the corporate archive housed in the Modern Records Centre, and to refuse the company representation at University careers fairs.

In July 2015 Warwick committed to divest from fossil fuels; the first visible sign of their agreement that halting catastrophic climate change requires withdrawing support from the industry that drives it. We now call on the university to begin more significantly demonstrating their commitment to addressing the climate crisis, and confronting the rapacious industry that is intent on digging up and burning every last atom of carbon in the ground.

We have chosen BP as a prime target for the University to sever their ties with, given the close connection the University has with the company, evidenced by the presence of the BP Archive on campus. In order to have a decent chance of avoiding 2 degrees warming, the internationally recognised upper-limit for disastrous climate change, climate scientists have found that at least 4/5ths of coal, oil and gas must stay in the ground. BP is showing little sign that it intends to leave its oil reserves in the ground.

Climate change has been named the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century” by Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. At a time when we need an unprecedented shift away from fossil fuel energy, BP’s chief executive received bonuses linked to the expansion of new fossil fuel projects, including the dirtiest fossil fuel of all – tar sands oil. Their business model is reckless. And it’s not just climate change: BP is responsible for the largest marine oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The company is also being sued in a British court for alleged complicity in the kidnap and torture of a union activist in Columbia.

Despite the Chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, stating that, “Nothing is locked away. We share everything happily,” the Archive is in fact closed off from 1976 onwards, leaving the important research into renewables conducted in the 1980/90s under wraps. This is just the Warwick-chapter in the saga of BP’s corruption and immorality. Through housing and supporting such a company, which shields off vital renewables research from the public, Warwick is complicit in BP’s practices.

Furthermore, BP has publicly stated that they use the Archive as a propaganda tool to promote their image and shape the academic debate. Their website explicitly states that, “These records are not only used by the Company to support its primary business activities, but also to enhance its reputation.” Peter Housego, the current Archive manager, has spoken openly about an initially critical academic article which resulted in “the writing of a very different article” after the researcher was allowed into the Archive.

We expect Warwick to have entered into discussions over arrangements for the vacation of the BP Archive by the commencement of the Conference of the Parties in Paris on Nov. 30, 2015, and to immediately cease giving out, rescind invitations to, and refuse requests by BP and other fossil fuel companies to attend careers fairs and other Careers & Skills events.

Kind regards,

Fossil Free Warwick

You can sign out petition to get BP off our campus here: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/get-bp-off-the-university-of-warwick-s-campus. You can find out more at our new website here: fossilfreewarwick.org

BP Off Campus: Letter to Management

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

University of Warwick Divests From Fossil Fuels

Today 8th July – The University of Warwick’s University Council committed to divesting from fossil fuels, after two years of student and staff calls for the university to get out of coal, oil and gas.

Campaigners rejoiced as Warwick followed Glasgow, Bedfordshire, SOAS, Oxford, Edinburgh and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease to become the seventh university in the UK to pledge some form of fossil fuel divestment.

Dan Goss, a student campaigner from Fossil Free Warwick University, said: “We are all delighted that Warwick has brought its investments in line with its professed values, and heeded the call of the democratic majority. This decision testifies to two long years of campaigning by Fossil Free Warwick. We’re overjoyed by this victory – but it’s just the beginning. Divestment is the spring board for a united front against the fossil fuel industry globally and on campuses.”

Members from University Council met today in the Shard, London to make a strategic decision on continuing to invest in fossil fuels. The University of Warwick currently holds a £14 million endowment, £1 million of which is represented by oil, gas and coal companies. During the course of their three hour meeting, a motion was passed through Council committing the University to replace existing funds with investments in fossil-free index related funds. They have committed to divesting as soon as such a fund becomes available, by pledging to conduct an annual review. It is expected that such funds will be available imminently, and certainly within the year.

Cat Turhan, Warwick SU President said in response to the universities statement: “Divestment is the act of moving your money away from the fossil fuel industry. Warwick’s statement commits them to take up any financially viable fossil free fund that becomes available. These are expected to emerge imminently, certainly within the year, and Warwick’s divestment would quickly follow. There is no question that this is a complete win for the Fossil Free Warwick campaign, and that it commits the University to full divestment in the near future.”

Campaigners from the group Fossil Free Warwick University, a local offshoot of the national organisation People and Planet [1], have spent the past two years lobbying their University’s financial managers to fully divest from fossil fuels, and welcome these steps to break ties with some of the world’s biggest polluters.

Andrew Taylor Fossil Free Campaigns Manager at People & Planet said: “Warwick’s decision is another clear signal that any university that doesn’t divest is going against the tide. Any institution with a moral compass should be turning their backs on the fossil fuel industry now.”

Since the formation of the group in 2013, 65% of the student population has voted in favour of fossil fuel divestment [2]. The campaign has also submitted letters from all of the Students Union’s sabbatical officers [3], 100 members of staff, and approximately 1,500 students [4], calling for the institution to take a stand against climate change and divest from fossil fuels.

Michael Niblett, a member of staff from the Department for Caribbean Studies, said: “The university’s decision to divest from fossil fuels is hugely welcome. It represents both an important victory on the part of those campaigning for divestment and a significant step in the struggle to de-legitimize and ‘de-naturalize’ our addiction to fossil fuels. The upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Paris will, once again, seek to secure a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change from all nations. That such an agreement has still to be settled after years of prolonged negotiations is a stinging indictment of the failure of global leadership on this issue. Clearly it will be up to others, working at multiple scales through campaigns such as Fossil Free, to carry the fight and change the way individuals and institutions behave.”

The University of Manchester is also expected to make a decision on divestment today. The University of Manchester currently invests over £9.5 million in shares in six of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including BP, Shell and Glencoe Xstrata.

Yesterday around 100 Manchester University staff including author Jeanette Winterson and the outspoken Professor of Energy and Climate Change Kevin Anderson wrote an letter saying: “We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time… We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the university commits to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.”

Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment movement in history and is continuing to gain momentum [5]. Around 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of over $50 billion, have committed to divest, including the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association, and the Church of England [6].

[ENDS]

Contacts:
Connor Woodman 07954402113 c.d.w.woodman@warwick.ac.uk
Sophie Monk 07703780565 sophiemonk0@gmail.com
Notes:
[1] People & Planet is Britain’s largest student network campaigning on environmental justice and human rights coordinates the UK university fossil fuel divestment movement. Over the past 18 months, students in the People & Planet network have launched over 65 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK, engaging over 30,000 students. See http://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free
[6] For a full list of all the institutions that have divested, see http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

Photos: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6enh73e3okmwahf/AAC0zxITNbnGBf5kSL7HL5xHa?dl=0

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WE WON: Warwick Divests!

Today, the University of Warwick has announced that it will divest from fossil fuels.

After two long years of campaigning, organising and gathering widespread support, this is a huge victory for Fossil Free Warwick. We are deeply grateful to our Sabbatical Officers Cat Turhan and Rob Anckorn for working tirelessly on this issue in Council.

As the planet hurtles towards 2 degree warming, it is more important now than ever for universities to dissolve their ties with the fossil fuel industry and thereby remove its social license to operate. The university is no place for the fossil fuel industry, which is on track to destroy the future of its students and defy the research of its academics.

This win is a testament to what we can achieve when we organise collectively and unite around a common passion. We have lobbied, we have demonstrated, we have marched… and now we have won!

But the fight against the fossil fuel industry and for climate justice is not over yet. There remain plenty of frontiers on our university campuses that the fossil fuel industry still occupy and its power is still pervasive. The University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre still hosts the BP Archive, where key research into renewable technologies is being concealed from the public, contrary to the BP Chairman’s recent statements. A great proportion of our campus is owned by the automotive industry, notorious for its support of climate change denialism and stalling of mitigation strategy.

Nor is this a complete victory for the University’s democratic channels. Throughout our campaign, we have been repeatedly sidelined and excluded from decision-making processes. We cannot forget that only six months ago, police were called onto campus where they used violence to repress peaceful student protest. The student movement still has a long way to go, but we are ready for what the future holds and we are more determined than ever.

Fossil Free Warwick meets weekly during term time, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter. This is just the beginning, and the fight for climate justice spans the globe. Join us in the next phase of our campaign.

PRESS RELEASE: https://fossilfreewarwick.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/press-release-for-immediate-release/

WE WON: Warwick Divests!

UPDATE: MARCH ON THE SHARD

We’ve just received news that the University Council’s pre-meeting dinner tomorrow (Tuesday) has been cancelled. Our planned March on the Shard was designed to coincide with the dinner, to demonstrate students’ unwavering support for divestment and create a presence decision makers can’t ignore.

We will still be marching, 4PM at Temple.

We are now also calling for a picket at the Council meeting at 10AM on Wednesday outside the Shard, along with the march the day before.

Management have already selected a venue for the decision 100 miles away from the student populace. It’s possible that they have decided to cancel the planned dinner due to our scheduled march. We were informed that ‘costs’ caused them to cancel the pre-meeting dinner. However, it seems highly unlikely that management suddenly realised the cost of putting up Council members in London accommodation. The timing of the announcement and manner in which it was carried out suggests a tactical cancellation, although this isn’t immediately provable. At the least, they appear to have withheld telling us about the cancellation until the last minute, hoping to cause us confusion.

Additionally, contrary to all reasonable expectations, Fossil Free Warwick representatives have been denied a place in the Council meeting. We will therefore be unable to directly argue our case in the meeting, and have been deprived of access to this ‘democratic channel’.

We strongly urge all in London to attend these actions. Stand in solidarity with us and those in the global South most devastated by the continued collusion of our universities with the fossil fuel industry, and help us pressure the Council into divesting.

UPDATE: MARCH ON THE SHARD