NYU Divest Letter Drop Demands Hamilton and Board Response

Alex Domb
In the letter, NYU Divest said that many Board of Trustees members have connections to the fossil fuel industry, which they deem to be conflicts of interest.

On Monday, NYU Divest dropped off a six page letter at NYU President Alexander Hamilton’s office in the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library urging the university to divest from all reliance on fossil fuels.

The letter cited a financial and moral obligation to divest that the group has continuously brought to the university’s attention. The letter requested a response from Hamilton and the board by the end of November. It was signed by NYU School of Law students Olivia Rich and Malcolm Kim, and CAS graduate student Lola Jusidman, on behalf of NYU Divest.

Hamilton has not yet responded to the letter or the group’s demands.

“We have discussed at length the financial risks of fossil fuel investments and the moral need to phase out an industry that is locking in irreversible damage to our environment,” the letter read.

The letter condemned the Board of Trustees’ denial last year to divest from fossil fuels, a measure which was approved by the Student Senate with over 80 percent support in 2015. In the letter, NYU Divest also criticized the fact that several trustees maintain ties to fossil fuel companies, and suggested that this is a conflict of interest.

“It is a clear conflict of interests for a trustee who benefits from the fossil fuel sector to participate in a decision on fossil fuel divestment,” the letter read.

In criticizing trustee connections to the fossil fuel industry, the letter most blatantly condemned Anadarko, a large fossil fuel company which maintains ties to one of trustee William Berkeley’s company’s subsidiaries, Berkeley Oil and Gas. NYU Divest’s letter said that Anadarko contributed to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, polluted American lands, hurt the environment surrounding African villages in Mozambique without proper compensation, and attempted to open various United States national monuments and parks to private oil drilling.

“We will not allow our university to remain invested in companies with such clear disregard for democracy, the environment, political rights, land rights and human life,” the letter read.

The letter equated the trustees’ lack of action on divestment with recent anti-environmental measures taken by President Donald Trump’s administration. NYU Divest said in the letter that these decisions benefit the wealthy and privileged, while ignoring the needs of low-income, minority communities.

The letter demanded that NYU divest from the fossil fuels companies tied to NYU trustees, that trustees reconsider divestment in an open meeting and that trustees with potential conflicts of interest remove themselves from any further votes on the matter.

The letter posed the board’s future responses to these requests as a valid test of its ability to serve the school community as a whole.

“Their ability to make a careful and responsible decision on fossil fuel divestment, and to recuse themselves when appropriate, has been, and will be, a serious test of their fitness to serve on the board,” the letter read.

Email Alex Domb at [email protected].

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