This story has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Feb. 27.
Though the meetings of the Yale Corporation may be shrouded in secrecy, Fossil Free Yale’s opinion of the body has been made plain and clear.
Around 1 p.m. on Thursday, roughly a dozen members of the student group advocating divestment gathered outside Woodbridge Hall to protest the governing body’s perceived lack of transparency and accountability to the student body. While a light snow fell, students held orange signs spelling the word “divest” and bearing the question, “Who is the Yale Corporation?” According to FFY spokesman Tristan Glowa ’18, this protest was unique since it reflected broader campus grievances with administrative accessibility, rather than solely focusing on the push for divestment.
“The Yale Corporation is meeting this week and we don’t know when or where, which encapsulates our criticism that there is a complete lack of transparency from the Yale Corporation to the student body,” Glowa said. “This is more than divestment, it is protesting the way [the Corporation members] are divided from the student body and the view we expressly transmit to them.”
However, it is unclear if these grievances will ever reach the ears of Corporation members. According to law school professor Jonathan Macey, who chairs Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility already met last Saturday.
FFY Project Manager Mitch Barrows ’16 said Thursday’s demonstration is in direct response to the secrecy of the Corporation’s meeting schedule.
One of the signs unveiled by the group prominently displayed five silhouettes intended to represent members of the Corporation, FFY communications director Chelsea Watson ’17 said. Phrases inside the figures charged the Corporation with “ignoring student voices,” “putting profit over people” and “denying dialogue.”
Watson said this criticism of the Corporation is not unique to FFY but is also shared by other campus groups who find themselves similarly frustrated with a lack of administrative engagement, including those pushing for mental health and cultural center reform. She said FFY had previously tried to work through official channels to engage with members of the Corporation, but had little success and is now employing a “more confrontational” strategy.
“A year has gone by and we feel not much has changed,” Watson said.
However, compared to Divest Harvard, a similar pro-divestment student group at Harvard University, FFY’s actions appear relatively tame.
Earlier this month, roughly 20 students from Divest Harvard stormed Harvard’s equivalent of Woodbridge Hall and occupied the president’s office for hours. At today’s demonstration, FFY representatives said they had no intent of entering the administrative building.
Still, Glowa said comparing the two groups was not a worthwhile exercise.
“The comparison to Harvard is a bit inappropriate since they received a ‘No’ from their administration way before Yale, and their campaign has a different strategy,” he said.
In August, University President Peter Salovey announced the CCIR did not recommend divestment after applying the standards and process the Corporation had long maintained for considering the ethical principles in managing the endowment. Salovey outlined that the University would instead pursue six new sustainability initiatives, ranging from piloting a carbon charge at Yale to adopting third-party verification of emission data.
Still, Barrows said the response failed to address the entirety of FFY’s proposal, including arguments based on climate justice.
“In utilizing this narrow argument, Yale has ignored not only the grave social injury committed against those most vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change, but also the futures of its students,” he said. “Yale must think beyond sustainability and respond to climate injustice.”
He added that today’s actions are the first of many slated this spring for FFY, including efforts to join other campus divestment movements to collectively escalate pressure.
Watson said FFY plans to continue escalating its pressure on the Yale Corporation in the coming days. The group is slated to unveil a specific “call to action” for the CCIR alongside a demonstration by the end of next week, she added.
“We don’t have a choice but to divest and we are not going away,” Glowa said.