NYU Divest Builds Momentum

NYU DivestWritten by Lillyanne Daigle, Green Corps Field Organizer

We all know that climate change is accelerating far quicker than anyone has predicted, and so far there has been a significant lack of political will to address one of the major contributors of climate change: the fossil fuel industry.  To be frank, we simply do not have time to sit around and wait for Congress to pass climate legislation; our oceans are acidifying, sea levels are rising, and severe weather events are increasing in frequency.  We cannot wait for another Supertyphoon Haiyan or Superstorm Sandy to spur policy – we must act now.  One of the most significant ways we can act is by using our investments to vote for what we want: a clean, safe future for us and the future generations to come.

The fossil fuel divestment movement is paying the way for that future, and NYU Divest is proud to be a part of it.  NYU launched its efforts – along with 200 college campuses – last year in a nationwide movement created by Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour that explained the fossil fuel industry has 5 times more oil, coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn.  The NYU campaign has accomplished quite a bit in a short time period, including meeting with the Vice President and CFO of NYU to discuss divestment last spring.  In August, NYU Divest published their second open letter to President Sexton, but never received a response – so we spent the fall building momentum across campus to propel the issue of fossil fuel divestment into Sexton’s lap.

In mid-November, NYU Divest hosted a panel on fossil fuel divestment.  Over 60 students and joined us to hear prominent figures in climate change, civil rights, labor, and divestment speak to NYU’s moral obligation as a global leader in higher education to protect students’ futures from the worsening impacts of climate change. The panelists discussed the need for President Sexton to remove university investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.  We were honored to be joined by Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, Dr. Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell’s Global Labor Institute, Seth Yurdin, city council member of Providence, RI, and Dr. Bill Hewitt, professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and author of A Newer World – Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis.  “Climate change is real – it’s happening right now, and it’s hitting low-income communities and communities of color hardest,” said Reverend Lennox Yearwood. “Divestment from the fossil fuel industry is a moral imperative in this turbulent time of injustice brought by climate change.”  Both panelists and student attendees emphasized the urgency and necessity of divesting from the carbon-rich industry, as climate change poses an imminent threat to a stable future.

NYU Alumni

NYU Divest Alumni Call-in Day

Just last week, alumni members of NYU Divest held a call-in day that generated dozens of alumni calls into President Sexton’s office, urging Sexton to divest the University’s endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.  Four alumni and a handful of students even braved the rain to kick off the call-in day in Washington Square Park.  Alumni gave powerful opening statements about alumni involvement in fossil fuel divestment and placed the first calls into President Sexton’s office while students cheered them on.  Michael Leone, a graduate of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, said, “NYU claims to be educating its students to create a just and sustainable future, but its investments in fossil fuels contradict this mission.  As an NYU graduate, I would like to be as proud of NYU’s investments as I am of the degree I received.  NYU should divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in companies better aligned with its mission.”

As requested by the Vice President and CFO, the campaign is currently working within governmental channels of the University to pass a divestment resolution; members of the group have recently presented to NYU’s Student Senate Council, and will be presenting to the Faculty Senate Council in mid-December, and the University Senate next semester.  We’ve had positive interactions with both the student and faculty senate, and are hopeful about our upcoming presentation to the University Senate.

Despite the hard work done by our group and the support of over a thousand students on campus, President Sexton has yet to agree to meet with the group.  While NYU advertises its “green-ness”, the President refuses to even acknowledge our growing, campus-wide divestment movement that would provide a rebirth of sorts to NYU’s reputation of being a progressive leader.  While other universities are getting answers, President Sexton is simply ignoring two important facts: fossil fuel divestment is completely in line with NYU’s ideals and ethics.  Oh, and we’re here to stay.

For more information about NYU Divest, visit: http://www.nyudivest.com/

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