Members of NYU Divest occupied the executive elevator and the lobby of Bobst Library on Monday, starting at 8 a.m.. Later that afternoon, they began negotiating with the university in regards to Divest’s demand that the Board of Trustees vote on divestment at their next meeting in hopes that Divest could present before the Board before the vote.
NYU Divest has taken action before in Bobst, and met with two board members to discuss divestment in February. However, Divest members remain dissatisfied with what they say is a lack of transparency and the university’s refusal to grant them a meeting with the full Board. On Monday afternoon, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders even tweeted his support of student groups advocating for divestment.
Let us stand in solidarity with the students at Columbia and NYU for demanding their schools divest from fossil fuels. #KeepItInTheGround
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 18, 2016
At 5:35 p.m., NYU Divest made the decision to reject a proposal from the university that would have guaranteed a meeting with the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees as soon as possible in exchange for ending their protest.This promptly ended university negotiations with Divest for the day, and said Divest supporters would be expected to leave Bobst at 1 a.m.
— Anne Cruz (@anne_loreto) April 18, 2016
CAS freshman and Divest member Jon Brasley said Divest members plan on staying in Bobst beyond the lobby area’s 1 a.m. closure, even if the school threatens disciplinary action as it did with IEC’s sit in last month.
“We believe strongly that it is imperative that we present to the full Board to have our voices heard and accurately portrayed before they come to a decision,” Brasley said. “We have assured them at this point that we will be staying overnight. Hopefully they decide to resume the conversation before then, but if not, there won’t be much discussion until tomorrow morning.”
NYU Divest then held a teach-in at 6 p.m. in Bobst’s lobby to educate the NYU community on the importance of divestment from fossil fuels. Divest members shared personal stories as to why divestment is morally and financially responsible for the university.
CAS junior and Divest member Olivia Rich said while the university claims that Divest’s proposals are being considered in the Board’s standard process, the urgency of climate change should supercede the university’s bureaucracy.
“This is an issue that predates President Hamilton, this is an issue with transparency and timeliness,” Rich said. “The fact that they are following a process does not fix the fact that we are not being informed as to how that process is going and given the urgency of climate change, we have reasonable expectations of timeliness and communication as to how that timetable will look.”
NYU Divest’s occupation drew various passersby to their cause, with many even staying to listen to the teach-in.
LS sophomore Nikki Camera, a member of the International Socialist Organization at NYU, said she supports divestment from fossil fuels because NYU’s investments should reflect the needs and values of its student body.
“We think that the money we put into this school should come out and benefit us rather than investments for the administration to make more money,” Camera said. “We might not see the direct effects of these investments in New York City right here, but these investments affect tons of smaller countries, indigenous people and poor people.”
University spokesman John Beckman said Divest’s protest was “puzzling” and “disappointing” given the university’s efforts to work with Divest and offer them a meeting with the full Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.
“Regrettably, they declined our proposal, which we offered in the spirit of moving forward in a positive manner,” Beckman said. “We respect NYU Divest’s right to protest and state their position. But the reality is that the matter is being considered in line with the process we have repeatedly described to NYU Divest, and we think it’s unfortunate they turned down our offer to move forward.”
Email Anne Cruz and Lexi Faunce at [email protected].