Yale Students Cited at Fuel-Divestment Protest

Updated on
Yale Sit-In
Nathan Lobel hands a bouquet of flowers to Yale University President Peter Salovey, left, inside Woodbridge Hall on Thursday, April 9, 2015. A group of Yale University students supporting fossil-fuel divestment began a sit-in today in the administrative hall where President Peter Salovey’s office is located. Source: Lex Barlowe via Bloomberg

Yale University police cited 19 students after they staged a sit-in outside President Peter Salovey’s office to push for divestment from fossil-fuel companies.

The students were issued citations and fined on Thursday for trespassing, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said. The protest comes as students at Harvard University prepare for a week-long blockade of the hall housing President Drew Faust’s office. Demonstrations have also been held at Swarthmore College and Bowdoin College.

The groups are seeking to force the schools to sell holdings of oil, gas and coal stocks, which they say contribute to climate change. Yale has a $24 billion endowment, the third-largest in higher education. It told students in August that it won’t divest from fossil fuels. Instead the New Haven, Connecticut, university said it would spend more on energy conservation and greenhouse gas reductions while communicating to money managers the importance of accounting for climate change in investment analysis.

“We are asking that the Yale Corp. commit to reconsider divestment,” said protest organizer Chelsea Watson, referring to the Ivy League school’s trustees. “Many students remain frustrated because they had hoped for an open discussion.”

Students need to make their arguments to a committee that advises the school on investor responsibility, Conroy said.

‘Always Open’

“The Yale Corporation is always open to hearing new arguments for divestment from any investments that students, faculty, or staff believe create social harm,” he said in a statement.

More than 25 schools, most in the U.S., have committed to divesting from publicly traded companies that control the largest reserves of oil, gas and coal, which are blamed for global warming, according 350.org, which promotes climate-focused campaigns. The richest is Stanford University, which has a $21.4 billion endowment and last year said it would no longer make direct investments in coal companies.

Yale’s undergraduates voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting in a referendum in 2013.

The students were fined $92, according to Watson, an environmental studies major. She said the protest has been civil, with students permitting administrators to move around the building. Protesters handed Salovey flowers on his way into the office.

(Corrects to remove reference to arrests in headline and first paragraph.)
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