Dozens of orange-clad students, faculty and staff from NYU Divest laid on the the atrium of Bobst Library the morning of Oct. 16 and spelled out “divest” with their bodies. They called on NYU President John Sexton and the Board of Trustees to decrease the university’s investment from the fossil fuel industry.
What they called an aerial action event was meant to draw attention to the issue before members of NYU Divest attended a meeting with the financial committee of the University Senate’s subcommittee on divestment, which took place on the top floor of the library.
After a few minutes of lying on the ground, the security team asked NYU Divest to leave, saying that they were creating a fire hazard. CAS sophomore and NYU divest member Daniel Floyd said they expected this to happen and that their goal was not to be disruptive.
“We knew we were going to have to leave as quickly as possible,” Floyd said. “Our point wasn’t to be disruptive because we’re trying to work with the administration — we’re not trying to mess with them. We just want to show that we do have power.”
Julia Abre, an LS freshman who was at Bobst during the demonstration, said she felt it was effective.
“If they wanted to cause an impression, then this was a good way to do so,” Abre said. “They secured a pretty good space because there are a lot of people in here and it does call attention to them.”
CAS senior Priya Mulgaonkar, who is the actions and mobilizations coordinator for NYU Divest, said the action was meant to encourage the university to address the larger issue of climate change.
“We are inviting the subcommittee and the rest of the administration to be with us on the right side of history,” Mulgaonkar said. “We know it is financially feasible and morally indisputable to divest from the industry that is profiting from the destruction of our planet. NYU, with its global presence and commitment to sustainability, must take this stand.”
Floyd spoke about the impending meeting with administrators of the subcommittee on divestment.
“Hopefully a couple of them saw us as they came in,” Floyd said. “It’s so much more powerful to have a message spelled out with actual bodies than it is to write it down.”
Last semester, NYU Divest met with Sexton and CFO Marty Dorph, securing an agreement from Sexton to include fossil fuel divestment on the University Senate agenda, create a subcommittee on divestment within the financial committee of the senate and ensure that the club would be permitted to present their proposal to the Board of Trustees in 2015.
The action was the first of many future meetings with the subcommittee to prepare for their presentation to the University Senate in December. Support from the senate will lead to negotiations with the Board of Trustees, which will ultimately decide on divestment.
“We are optimistic about this partnership,” Mulgaonkar said. “However, Sexton made it clear that changing the financial strategy for our endowment is only possible with a clear demonstration of massive support.”
Email Shirley Foo at [email protected]