by Nora Heaphy, Fossil Free Yale
On the last day of Yale’s 2018 Fall semester [Dec. 7], 48 students, professors, and New Haven community members were arrested after a 5-hour occupation of the Yale Investments Office.
We were sitting in to demand that Yale direct its fund managers to cancel their holdings in Puerto Rico’s debt and divest from the fossil fuel industry. After 6 years of trying to engage with the Yale administration, the few channels available had failed us, and our only alternative was direct action.
As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a climate change-fueled hurricane and a massive debt crisis, Yale’s fifth largest fund manager Baupost is suing to have its debt repaid before the island can rebuild, and renowned Yale Chief Investment Officer David Swensen sits on the board of Baupost. Our university’s investments in injustice don’t surprise us. We also know that Yale invests at least $678 million in fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Antero. These corporations intend to extract and burn as much coal, oil, and natural gas as possible, regardless of the consequences to islands like Puerto Rico. And they’ve spent billions funding climate denial and paying off politicians to lobby against climate policies like a Green New Deal.
In the Investments Office lobby, members of our coalition presented on Puerto Rico’s debt and the roots of Yale’s endowment in slavery, held trainings, sang songs, and read statements of support from around the world. Meanwhile, 450 students marched to the Investments Office and rallied in support, as those inside were arrested. The Yale administration—who had recently published a statement blaming climate change on everyday consumers rather than fossil fuel corporations—chose to arrest its students rather than have a conversation with us. A few days later, at the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility’s public meeting, we again confronted the administration’s failure to act in the face of climate injustice. Our calls for moral leadership from Yale have been met with stalling, inaction, and a willful naiveté that amounts to gross negligence. But students, New Haven, and Puerto Rico are powerful, and we will hold this university accountable.
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