Tufts students stage sit-in to urge fossil fuel divestment

Repost from The Boston Globe
[Editor: For more on fossil fuel divestment, see 350.org and GoFossilFree.org.  See also The Daily Mail: “Hydrogen fuel breakthrough: Clean power generated WITHOUT relying on fossil fuels” – RS]

Tufts students stage sit-in to urge fossil fuel divestment

By Aneri Pattani, April 22, 2015
Students protested Tufts University’s fossil fuel investment at the president’s office. David L Ryan/Globe staff

Tufts University students and alumni entered the university president’s office Wednesday morning and began a sit-in, vowing to persist until the administration commits to fossil fuel divestment.

The protest began just before 9 a.m. when members of the student group Tufts Climate Action entered president Anthony Monaco’s office in Ballou Hall, said Shana Gallagher, chairwoman of the student group.

Gallagher, 20, said the group wants the university to commit to divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies over a five-year period and freeze all new investments immediately.

“We are planning on staying here until we are given some commitments,” she said. “The president is out of town, but we will be right here waiting for him when he gets back.”

The sit-in at Tufts is the latest in a series of protests staged at Boston-area schools recently to urge fossil fuel divestment. Last week, a group of Harvard students and their supporters rallied in Harvard Yard.

Tufts issued a statement Wednesday saying it recognizes the diversity of opinions on the subject of divestment and welcomes continued discussion that is thoughtful and respectful.

“Tufts University is proud of its students’ active involvement in a wide range of issues,” the statement said. “However, it is important that the debate about divestment not overshadow the progress Tufts is making in support of environmental stewardship.”

The university said it has launched a new sustainability investment fund, has begun construction of a high-efficiency central energy plant, and is making new investments in recycling and waste-reduction programs.

For the 33 students, alumni, and local supporters involved in the sit-in, as well as numerous other students who participated in a divestment rally at noon, the efforts need to go further, Gallagher said.

“We are hoping to reopen that line of communication and make sure we can be working with the administration on the issue of fossil fuels,” she said.

Tufts executive vice president Patricia Campbell met with some members of the student group Wednesday morning after the sit-in began, Gallagher said. Another round of negotiations is scheduled for Thursday morning.

“This was the step we felt we had to take to initiate these negotiations,” Gallagher said.

The university determined last year that divestment “would have an immediate adverse impact on the educational experience at Tufts,” and it “would not be prudent to expose the university to that kind of risk at this time,” the university said in the statement.

The university said a group of students, trustees, faculty, and staff concluded that “divestment would likely result in a significant reduction in operating funds.”

“We will continue to examine the feasibility of divestment in the future,” the statement said.

Ben Weilerstein, 21, a member of Tufts Climate Action, said he thought the protest was a necessary step to bring attention to the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change.

“This is important because Tufts has millions of dollars invested in an industry that is destroying communities across the world,” he said.