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BP Exec threatens Cambridge academic freedom

A statement from Zero Carbon Cambridge following BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley's comments that �we donate and do lots of research at Cambridge so I hope they come to their senses on this.�

Just a day after Cambridge University Council postpones its final decision on divestment until next month, the BP Chief Executive is issuing thinly veiled threats about research funding, menacing that �we donate and do lots of research at Cambridge so I hope they come to their senses on this.�. Here's our statement, quoted in the Guardian, denouncing this attack on academic freedom:

"Cambridge's academic independence is under threat. University Council have repeatedly refused to divest from fossil fuels, despite both students and academics repeatedly telling them to and its own Governing Body passing a motion for divestment. Their reasons have shifted - a previous justification of shareholder engagement has quietly been shelved after it yielded no results whatsoever. Now we are seeing the true story. University authorities are in hock to private interests, as demonstrated by this outrageous threat from BP�s Chief Executive.

Never mind that just 0.4% of overall research funding in the University comes from fossil fuel companies, or that none of the 63 universities across the UK who have divested has seen any resultant loss in research funding. The question here is whether academic freedom still holds true at Cambridge. If the University is unable to divest its endowment in line with the democratic wishes of students and staff due to these threats, then there is no longer academic independence at Cambridge.

Today BP's mask slipped to reveal the ugliness lying beneath. Mr Dudley's outrageous threat is just another sign of an industry desperately clinging on to power, knowing its only chance for survival is to subvert democracy at universities like Cambridge and leech off their reputation.

Last month Professor Toope spoke out against the marketisation of universities, and has said that Cambridge must be a �social leader�. Yesterday he declared that Council will make a final decision on divestment next month and promised to "execute urgent and tangible action to deliver a carbon neutral future." But no matter how they spin it, no matter how many rebrands and platitudes BP & co offer, there's no changing the fact that 80% of currently known fossil fuel reserves must stay below the ground if we are to remain below 2C.

When University Council meets next month for its final decision, the choice before Professor Toope and his colleagues will be clear: respect the democratic will of its staff and students and divest from fossil fuels, or cave in to private interest and abandon the pretence of academic independence."