The Union Council voted last week against raising even the mildest objection to the funding of an exhibition on carbon capture technology at the Science Museum by Shell, the fossil fuel giant.
The Council voted last Tuesday by a margin of 48 to 21 with 31 abstentions against a paper proposed by Ansh Bhatnagar, a physics masters student and long term campaigner for Imperial to divest from fossil fuel investment. The paper would have required the sabbatical officers, students taking a year out of their studies to work in paid leadership positions in the Union, to write a letter to the Science Museum “Expressing the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for all of us to step up and take action” as well as “Expressing the Union’s disapproval of Shell’s sponsorship of this exhibition”.
Bhatnagar told Felix that “This was the fourth in a number of motions on worker’s rights and climate justice that have fallen at Council in the past year. Members presented incoherent arguments and used underhanded tactics to oppose the motion, with one member using a procedural intervention to advance arguments against the motion before it was even presented.
A separate point to this specific motion; the truth is that Council follows the will of the [sabbatical officers] and abdicates it’s responsibility of being more than a rubber stamping body. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with individual decisions, the current state of affairs is a disservice to the students we are meant to represent.”
This statement reflects a schism in a group of people that have dominated the top level of Union politics for the last two years, many of whom Bhatnagar campagined for and are personal friends of his.
Bhatnagar also continued his attacks on Council on Twitter, writing “imperial SU is full of vacuous liberals and spineless cowards...The amount of resistance to any sort of motion on climate change because “it can hurt our student societies that are sponsored by Shell” is appalling”.
Some might say that Bhatnagar went too far with some of his comments.
Katie McCann who criticised Bhatnagar’s stance and who he criticised on Twitter said “I find Ansh’s response inherently one-dimensional, judgemental, and illegitimate. Of course I am aware of the nuances of CCS, and I find the grasp at publicly insulting my intelligence laughable, considering we appear to be in the same stage of our lives. I find it creepy and weird that his response to his paper being rejected was to attack a young women, whom he’s never previously met before, and insult her intelligence. If he views my intelligence as inferior, I’d suggest he discuss this topic with our soon to be Head of Department Tina van de Flierdt, who taught my ‘Climate’ module and the pros and cons of various methods of geoengineering, with data and analytics from the IPCC.