NYU Divest #TrusteeOfTheWeek goes to Larry Fink. As part of the group’s new initiative #OnBoardWithDivestment, Divest has nominated a new member of the board each week since Feb. 17. According to its website, Divest wants to hold NYU’s board accountable to the University Senate’s decision to divest university funds from fossil fuels.
Each week, the group focuses on a different trustee, and reaches out to them about the board’s responsibility to listen to community members. Fink, the CEO of the financial planning company BlackRock, was nominated this week because of his connections to ExxonMobil and President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The group contacted Fink at the end of February to request his support for divestment, but he did not respond. In an online flyer Divest released on Feb. 24, the group listed statistics of Fink, BlackRock’s wealth and the trustee’s ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
CAS senior Olivia Rich is an organizing member of NYU Divest, and she said the club started the #OnBoardWithDivestment initiative because the Board of Trustees declined to divest from fossil fuels despite support from the community and University Senate.
“Students were not allowed to present at [the June 2016 meeting when the board rejected divestment], despite a promise from John Sexton and a 33 hour occupation — we don’t have meeting notes or even a tally of votes,” Rich said. “It became very clear to us that there isn’t accountability or transparency with the board, and the only way to get their attention was to contact them directly.”
Rich said that NYU Divest wants the university to know that the club is questioning governance structures that exclude people impacted by their decisions, from investments to tuition. She said that NYU Divest doesn’t have a personal opinion on Fink, but questions his company’s investments.
“We don’t have an opinion on Larry Fink as a person, as we haven’t met him,” Rich said. “But we do believe that as the CEO of an enormously wealthy company that invests in Exxon, his interests are probably contrary to that of the general NYU community, and he isn’t necessarily the best person to be representing NYU in secret board meetings.”
However, NYU spokesperson John Beckman said that members of the board, in their role as trustees, are legally bound to put the welfare of the university ahead of any other interest.
“We appreciate that there are members of the NYU community who believe strongly in fossil fuel divestment,” Beckman said in response to these events. “It is unfortunate that the response is to attack without basis the personal integrity of individual board members.”
He said that the board carefully considered the resolution from the University Senate and the presentations by NYU Divest regarding the demand to divest from the fossil fuel industry, but the board ultimately concluded that divestment was not the proper course of action.
Tisch junior Mariah Qaiser said she finds the level of Fink’s authority in the university unsettling because of his connection to the DAPL. She thinks his presence is counterproductive to the university’s growth.
“Especially in reference to the DAPL, I find it hypocritical that an individual who fails to give heed to another community, especially a community concerned about the safety of their people and environment, would have this much influence over NYU,” Qaiser said. “In a nation that shares land, it’s important to learn to be considerate of others, and I believe that this situation will negatively impact NYU students by disregarding the importance of integrity, support and consideration of others.”
Email Sherah Ndjongo at [email protected]