On Thursday, March 5th, around 80 supporters, friends, and members of Fossil Free Yale rallied outside of Woodbridge Hall. With speakers telling stories of direct community exploitation by fossil fuel companies, our rally demanded that the Yale administration announce a plan to address the countless injustices of the fossil fuel industry. We wanted to know whose side Yale was on– the side of students and affected communities, or the side of fossil fuel profits destroying our world.
This request was summarized in a letter delivered to President Salovey and the Yale Corporation prior to the rally. The letter stated that “the sustainability plan that [Salovey] presented in August does not account for nor can it correct … the direct social harms [of the fossil fuel industry]” and requested the university announce a plan to adjust their investment strategies to account for these grave social injuries. The letter issued an April 1st deadline for the Corporation’s response to see whether they were serious about standing on the side of justice.
On March 20th, President Salovey, speaking for the Yale Corporation, responded to Fossil Free Yale in an email. No part of the response mentioned Fossil Free Yale’s request for a plan to address the social injustices of the fossil fuel industry. Instead, they issued an update on the sustainability initiatives first announced in August 2014 in the place of divestment. The letter maintained that “These initiatives are not a distraction from the divestment issue.” Yet, the Corporation has again sidestepped addressing the ethics of their investments to focus on Yale’s individual carbon footprint.
Despite ignoring our request, Salovey’s response did recognize that climate change is “without question one of the most critical issues faced by our global community.” He also stated that “Yale has an important role as an investor, but our greatest contributions come from … our leadership by example and encouragement among peer institutions.”
We agree. Today, Yale should lead by example by investing our endowment ethically. It is wrong for Yale to invest in an industry that aims to sell far more carbon than is compatible with a livable future. It is also wrong to profit from an industry whose business model is built upon the destruction of the environment, the obstruction of democratic procedures, and the exploitation of marginalized communities. We must put people over profit and take immediate action to maintain our University’s commitment to ethical investing.
We asked the Yale Corporation to choose our side, the side of 83% of the student body who voted in favor of divestment, the side of young people facing the prospect of an unlivable future, the side of those marginalized and exploited by the fossil fuel industry. Their response indicated that the Yale administration is not on our side — yet. But that must change. Action to combat climate catastrophe cannot wait. We are taking action until the administration chooses to become a leader in climate justice and cuts ties with the fossil fuel industry.