Divest and SLAM Occupy New Admissions Center, Demand Trustee Action

Alex Domb
Demonstrators displayed posters advocating for fossil fuel divestment and improved student representation.

NYU Divest and the Student Labor Action Movement, two prominent student activist organizations, occupied the first floor of the newly opened Bonomi Family Admissions Center for approximately eight hours on Monday. The groups have co-written a letter addressed to NYU administration and trustees detailing specific demands.

The organizations started their occupation early Monday morning. Shortly after noon, Divest announced on Twitter that NYU Vice President of Public Affairs Lynne Brown told the demonstrators that she had forwarded the group’s letter to university trustees and will attempt to get a response.

NYU Public Affairs did not immediately respond for comment.

Two of the demands are posed by Divest; the first asks the Board of Trustees for greater transparency about conflicts of interest between trustees and investments in fossil fuel companies. The second demand asks trustees to re-vote on total university divestment from fossil fuel companies, and for trustees with ties to fossil fuel companies to recuse themselves from this vote.

“We talk about being a global university, but we can’t really be global and loving of our Earth if we’re investing in something that’s harming it,” said Josie Riederer, a Divest member and sophomore in Global Liberal Studies.

In April 2015, the Student Senators’ Council and the University Senate both passed a resolution for the university to cut ties with all investments in fossil fuel companies. The measure was struck down by the Board of Trustees the following year.

SLAM demands that the university add student representation to the Board of Trustees, a goal it has advocated for previously — at one point, receiving an endorsement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. As a part of this demand, SLAM requests publicly accessible platforms that would allow NYU community members to contact trustees.

The occupation was the latest effort in what has been an active school year for both organizations. SLAM held demonstrations in September, October and February, delivered a letter to the administration in September and held a conversation with President Andrew Hamilton in March. The university, however, has been highly critical of SLAM’s efforts. Divest delivered a letter to President Hamilton and the Board of Trustees in November and occupied the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library executive elevator in December.

This occupation was the first time in the 2017-2018 academic year that SLAM and Divest joined forces for a public demonstration. In December, the two organizations teamed up to confront trustees departing the Kimmel Center for University Life following a meeting between the Board and university administration.

“Issues of accountability and democracy and representation are something that apply to the entire university community, and by working with SLAM we are making that known,” said Sarah Singh, a Divest member and a senior in Gallatin. “I think it shows solidarity, and the applicability of these issues to the entire NYU community.”

Demonstrators tactfully chose the Bonomi Center for its current demonstration. Its location on West 4th Street receives plentiful foot traffic throughout the day, and the groups seek to voice concerns with the university to prospective NYU applicants. The choice represents a shift in strategy from the largely unsuccessful December elevator occupation.

“We’re hoping to gain the attention of visiting students, and the administration, because of course they’re interested in who comes to this university and we thought we could get their attention here,” Singh said. “We’re tired of the elevator.”

While Divest and SLAM departed Bonomi at 5:00 p.m. on Monday evening, the groups plan to resume their occupation on Tuesday morning. Organizers held a conference call at 9:00 p.m. on Monday evening to strategize.

Email Alex Domb at [email protected]

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