On Sunday, December 4th, 2016, Fossil Free Yale held a rally at Sterling Memorial Plaza. About 125 members of the Yale community attended, including undergraduate, graduate students, and faculty. The action kicked off our campaign in the post-election world. In a Trump America, we can no longer count on the federal government to take action to ensure a liveable planet, so we need every institution to do what it can to protect our futures–starting with Yale. We’re calling on the administration, as well as students, faculty, and staff to come together to take action on climate.
On the chilly December afternoon, FFY and supporters congregated around the Women’s Table. In the backdrop of the rally stood a ten foot mural a painting depicting our vision of a better future. Students made speeches, including representatives from FFY–who spoke about the power of organizing, the urgency of the current moment, and the need for reinvestment, respectively–and a representative from the Association of Native Americans at Yale, who spoke about the current battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. In between speeches, students chanted, sang, and held hand-drawn signs depicting Indigenous water protectors facing off with law enforcement officials.
The rally came just two days after Fossil Free Yale, along with a coalition of student groups, published and delivered a new letter for the Yale Corporation. The letter to the Corporation included suggestions regarding what transparency measures they might take. This September, the Corporation’s declared that it intended to improve transparency through a number of reforms, and this letter aimed to detail what students would like to see change as far as Corporation accountability and decision-making. The rally was therefore also intended to put pressure on the Corporation to consider the suggested measures in their upcoming meeting.
In addition to this weekend’s activity, FFY has been working with the ACIR (Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility), and, based on a response to the group’s proposal last spring, has reason to believe that the Yale Corporation is considering divestment from ExxonMobil! This is a tremendous victory, and we hope that through continued demonstrations of student support, the Corporation will take the ACIR’s recommendation seriously.
Finally, this Sunday’s was the first campus action focused on climate and environment since Trump was elected. With a president-elect who doesn’t believe in climate change, wants to pull out of the Paris agreement, and pushes a 100 day plan based in fossil fuel extraction, the stakes are higher than ever. This rally was inspired in part by the energy coming from the thousand person meeting on November 14th at Yale Law School and the climate change working group that was created there. FFY is excited about its broadening base, with the graduate students and faculty that have become, in this moment of increased urgency, part of the movement.
Looking forward, keep an eye out for Yale Prison Divest’s open meeting with the ACIR on December 12th, and their combined panel on apartheid divestment, featuring alumni that participated in Yale’s apartheid divestment movement in the 1980s, on January 26th!