On Friday, a row of students stood in front of the University’s main administrative building and chanted “83 percent,” referring to the percentage of student voters that supported divestment in a referendum last fall.
Divestment has been a long-standing topic of debate at the University since students voted in the Yale College Council referendum last fall to encourage Yale to reduce or eliminate its assets in the fossil fuel industry. On Tuesday, a dozen students set up a demonstration outside Woodbridge Hall to demand that the University divest its assets from fossil fuel companies as a way to fight climate change. On Friday, students took up the protest again — this time with nearly double the numbers.
In a single line, 20 students stood and faced Woodbridge Hall. The demonstrators — including representatives from Fossil Free Yale, the leading student group advocating divestment — held signs that read “Don’t Silence Me” and “Divest.” Though Fossil Free Yale was not involved in Tuesday’s demonstration, it did organize Friday’s protest.
Several of the protesters wore business suits to demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to resolving the issues through internal processes with the administration, said Fossil Free Yale member Gabe Rissman ’16. Levine added that the demonstration shows the Yale Corporation that students are taking the issue of divestment seriously.
Some members of Fossil Free Yale voiced concern that the group’s actions on Friday did not fall in line with the group’s goal of working within administrative structures to foster change.
According to Fossil Free Yale member Alexandra Barlowe ’17, some members thought Friday’s actions were too confrontational, while others said the demonstration did not go far enough.
Barlowe said she was frustrated that Fossil Free Yale would not affiliate itself with Tuesday’s demonstration.
“Fossil Free Yale has established itself as a group that works with the administration,” she said. “But it’s a mistake that Fossil Free Yale only affiliates itself with that kind of work. I’d personally like to see it go further.”
A successful divestment campaign should not have to limit itself to working within established channels, she said.
Grace Steig ’16, who organized Tuesday’s unaffiliated protest, said she also participated in Friday’s Fossil Free Yale demonstration because she believes it is important to support the divestment movement in any form.
“The purpose of the protest is to show the Yale Corporation that we will continue to push for our proposal,” said Fossil Free Yale member Gabe Levine ’14. “Now is the time to articulate our proposal.”
Late last week, the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility met privately with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility — a committee of eight professors, students and alumni that evaluates ethical issues surrounding the University’s investments — to continue discussions on the possibility of divestment. Though the meeting’s notes are confidential, the CCIR, which has final authority, is expected to make a decision one way or another on the issue of divestment in the coming months.
Fossil Free Yale proposed the initial YCC referendum and has presented to the ACIR on several different occasions. Based on findings and data from Fossil Free Yale, the ACIR first met with the CCIR in February.
Yale Law School professor Jonathan Macey, chair of the ACIR, could not be reached for comment over the weekend. The three members of the CCIR, Neal Keny-Guyer SOM ’82, Catharine Hill GRD ’85 and Paul Joskow GRD ’72, could also not be reached for comment.
Climate change is having an increasingly impact on life on every continent, according to a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released early last week.
The protest lasted from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Friday afternoon.