Talia Soglin

The Board of Alders on Monday unanimously passed a resolution supporting the activists who stormed the field at the Yale Bowl on Nov. 23 to protest Harvard and Yale’s investments in fossil fuels and holdings in Puerto Rican debt.

The protest, which delayed The Game for nearly an hour at halftime, was organized by Divest Harvard and Fossil Free Yale. In a statement released by the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, Divest Harvard charged the two universities with engaging in “lip service and greenwashing” at the expense of substantive reform, constituting a failure to address the “climate change emergency.” While the majority of protesters left the field after roughly half an hour — at the urgings of the Yale Police Department, the New Haven Police Department and the game’s announcer — 48 remaining individuals were issued misdemeanor summons by the police for disorderly conduct, and two were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing.

The charged individuals are set to appear in court on Dec. 6. However, legislative bodies in Cambridge and New Haven have now both unanimously passed resolutions supporting the activists, urging that all charges be dropped and no further disciplinary action be taken.

“[The activists] walked onto the field to fight for something that they believed in,” Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 — who represents an overwhelmingly Yale-populated ward — said on Monday. “My alma mater says that it wants to train people to be leaders in society, and if what my former classmates were doing isn’t leadership, I don’t know what is.”

In passing this resolution, New Haven legislators echoed their Cambridge counterparts, who passed their resolution one week earlier. Like the Elm City’s, Cambridge’s resolution expressed emphatic support for the activists, disapproved of the universities’ investment practices and condemned potential disciplinary action.

Immediately following the Cambridge resolution’s passage, Divest Harvard tweeted its thanks.

“Huge thank you to Cambridge council member [Zondervan] and vice mayor [Devereux] for supporting our members who were arrested during the Harvard-Yale game this Saturday,” the tweet reads.

The city government’s statements are at odds with those of the University. On the day of the game, President Peter Salovey affirmed Yale’s commitment to fostering debate but disavowed disruptions of school events and thanked Yale and New Haven police. In a Monday statement, he said that “Yale is committed to addressing climate change substantively and relentlessly — and with increasing intensity” but “does not favor divestment.” Still, Salovey underscored that the Investments Office works with managers to assess the climate profiles of portfolio companies.

In an email to the News immediately following the protest, Harvard Director of Media Relations Rachael Dane said that while Harvard agrees that climate change is an urgent global challenge, it “respectfully disagree[s]” with divestment activists about what type of action Harvard should take to confront the issue. Harvard, she said, is “fully committed to [climate] leadership” through research and campus action. She noted that Harvard will not comment specifically on the student protest nor on the subsequent police activity.

But according to the protestors, anything short of divestment is not enough. Several alders on Monday echoed the activists’ call for Yale to change its investment practices.

“Yale and Harvard should take action to divest their combined 70 billion dollars from fossil fuels and unethical debt, not to discipline students for briefly delaying a football game in an act of civil disobedience,” said Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter ’11.

2019 marked the 136th edition of The Game.


Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu

Mackenzie is the editor in chief and president of the Managing Board of 2022. She previously covered City Hall for the News, including the 2019 mayoral race and New Haven's early pandemic response. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a junior in Trumbull College studying ethics, politics and economics.