As Bulldog Days drew to a close Wednesday, Fossil Free Yale dropped banners across campus declaring that Yale cares more for money than its students’ well-being.
The banners — which were hung on Cross Campus, at Woodbridge Hall and, most notably, in front of hundreds of prefrosh at the Old Campus pizza party — argued that the Yale’s current approach is “People over profit.” Instead, the group has argued, Yale’s investment activities should prioritize the needs and well-being of humans across the world over that of the 1 percent. FFY also decried Yale’s recent divestment of $10 million and the University’s vague promise on April 12 to Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility to divest more at an undefined future point. Instead, FFY demanded deliberate, morally compelled divestment during Wednesday’s campaign.
The activist group connected Yale’s refusal to fully divest with the University’s general tendency to make profit-driven choices, referring to the University’s recent naming decision as further evidence of this attitude.
“The Yale Corporation: It’s in the name — it’s a corporation!” FFY member Nathaniel Bresnick ’18 said. “As long as this University is run by a predominantly white, super-rich group which has absolute power, meets in secret and places the accumulation of profit over all other values, it will remain unaccountable to the people of color on this campus, in New Haven and around the world who are harmed by its actions.”
FFY dropped the banners on the final morning of Bulldog Days to increase the visibility of the cause, FFY member Jonathan Simonds ’18 said. The banners were a call to immediate action and a plea for the University to address divestment with an urgency consistent with the consequences of climate change and the extractive industry, FFY Policy Director Hannah Nesser ’16 said.
Bresnick said Yale’s profit-driven administrative structure is impeding divestment from fossil fuels and private prisons, and was also behind Yale’s decision to not rename Calhoun College but name a new residential college in line with the wishes of a high-paying donor.
FFY organizer Elias Estabrook ’16 said the Old Campus banner, which read “Yale Corp. profits from climate crisis,” was meant to assert that the University’s approach is a harmful one.
“Because the Yale Corporation maintains investments in fossil fuel companies, it is earning returns on a business model predicated on exploiting and harming humanity in the past, present and future,” Estabrook said.
The banners that arose across campus also came with the implication that the $10 million divestment Chief Investment Officer David Swensen GRD ’80 announced April 12 is not sufficient, Simonds said.
“We were afraid that the community would consider divestment to be a closed book upon reading the email from President Salovey regarding Mr. Swensen’s actions.” Simonds said. “We hope to clarify that that book is only just being opened.”
Fossil Free Yale was founded in the fall of 2012.