As the date nears for a University-wide walkout on Sept. 25 in support of taking action on climate change and cancelling Puerto Rican debt, student organizers are busy recruiting for the cause.
At an information session for the Yale Climate Strike at the Dwight Hall library on Tuesday night, they did exactly that.
Over a dozen people from a variety of class years attended the meeting to learn the best ways to contact professors and students about the upcoming walkout, which is set to happen at noon next Wednesday.
The walkout comes after several other demonstrations in recent years against the Yale administration, including a December 2018 sit-in at the Yale Investments Office against fossil fuel investments, in which 48 people were arrested, and a walkout in support of Nelson Pinos, an undocumented immigrant resisting deportation, last September.
Older students who were involved in those protests last year expect this event to carry the legacy of other successful student demonstrations.
“We know that walkouts work and strikes work,” said Nora Heaphy ’21, addressing the small crowd at Dwight Hall. “There’s a very long history of strikes for change in this country.”
Exact plans for the walkout are still in flux. But at the meeting, organizers said that they want to gather at Cross Campus. As Heaphy explained to those at the Library, the change they want is fairly simple: Divest from fossil fuel companies, cancel the debt owed by hurricane-torn Puerto Rico and raise awareness about climate change.
At the meeting, they worked to hone their pitch. Students formed groups of “accountability buddies” to make sure that others would reach out to enough students and professors about the upcoming demonstration. Armed with sample emails, colorful stickers and their cell phones, the organizers also began sending messages to their contacts, inviting them to join the walkout.
The event will happen when many have class. But to Alex Cohen ’21, who helped set up the meeting, that is the goal.
“As students, we have a role in this and we are saying we are not okay with how Yale is making money,” he said to the group.
Cohen encouraged students to let their professors know about the walkout but not to ask permission to leave. Around noon, posters and chants in the hallways of populated student buildings will encourage even more people to join the cause, Cohen argued.
“This will be a disruption of class for a few minutes,” he added. “Standing and saying why you’re walking out [is] not really up to [the professors].”
One attendee at the meeting, Ari Essunfeld ’23, said he is passionate about the walkout — his first — because he will be helping to organize it. He signed up to rally members of the first-year class to the cause and wants to walk out of his Physics 200 class next Wednesday. There is a midterm that day, he said, but he plans on asking his professor to move the exam.
If that happens, Essunfeld will stand up in his class at Sloane Physics Laboratory, say a few words about the walkout and join his new friends at Cross Campus.
“I’m excited about it. I would not say I’m nervous,” he said. “I’ll know that I was part of [the demonstration]. And it won’t be like I was sitting in a classroom while other people are walking out.”
In light of the Tuesday announcement that the University of California will shed fossil fuel investments from its endowment and pension funds by the end of the month, Cohen said that the time is right for Yale to do something similar.
At the end of the meeting, after temporarily disbanding so that students could text and email people about the walkout, the group began to sing and chant.
“We are feeling really strongly that we can win,” Heaphy said.
The demonstration is supported by several activist organizations on campus, including Fossil Free Yale, Despierta Boricua, Yale Students for Prison Divestment and the Yale Young Democratic Socialists of America.
Matt Kristoffersen | firstname.lastname@example.org