Campus Activists Occupy NYU Elevator Over Divestment Issue

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A group of anti-fossil fuel student activists at New York University began occupying an administrative elevator and lobby Monday at the University’s library in an effort to pressure the University into fully divesting its fossil fuel assets.

NYU Divest said it will not leave the lobby of the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library until its demands for divestment are met, which probably won’t happen until the school’s Board of Trustees divestment meeting in June.

So the school should probably expect their lobby to be packed full of campus environmentalists, if the divestment protesters get their way. And likewise, protesters should expect a long wait.

The group struck a defiant note prior to the demonstration, saying in a Monday press statement that the school’s delays on divestment need to stop.

“It is clear that NYU intends to drag this process out for as long as it can,” Olivia Rich, an NYU member and occupier said in the statement.

“Given the urgency of climate change, it is unacceptable for the Board of Trustees to delay a vote on this issue,” Rich added. “It has been a year since the University Senate passed a favorable resolution, and we need answers.”

Other occupiers suggest divestment is vital to lessening the fossil fuel industry’s supposedly negative impact on black people and minorities. The divestment issue, they argue, is a climate and social justice issue.

“This crisis is disproportionately harming communities of color and the world’s poor, Alexandra Dahlberg, a campaigner with Divest NYU, added in the statement. “Divesting from an industry that is willfully worsening climate change is an issue of justice,” she added.”

Martin Dorph, the University’s chief financial officer, addressed the group’s concerns three hours after the group’s occupation began. Dorph told the students the school’s Investment Committee has not yet decided on the best way forward.

The University has a $3.4 billion endowment — $1.3 billion of which is sunk in assets either directly or indirectly tied to the fossil fuel industry.

“It is the Investment Committee’s intent to come up with a recommendation based on everything they have heard, including the materials you’ve provided, and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees,” Dorph said. “It is their goal to have that recommendation ready for the next Board of Trustees’ meeting, which is June.”

The group said they were unaware of the Board Of Trustees next meeting, but would continue with their occupation nonetheless.

Administrators expect the occupation to end by Tuesday morning.

Dorph is already on the record suggesting the divestment crew should not get their hopes up, as the University is unlikely to reconsider its fossil fuel holdings.

“In order to eliminate the $139 million in fossil fuel investments, NYU would have to liquidate relationships with 39 funds that together account for 38% of the endowment, or $1.3 billion,” Dorph said in a March 2015 interview.

He added: “The Working Group concluded this was not financially prudent.”

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