Letter after the Sit In

Friends of Fossil Free Yale,

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Photo: the 19 students arrested and ticketed by Yale during peaceful protest

We want to start off by giving thanks. We are incredibly humbled by the overwhelming support we received not only on the Yale campus but across the country. Thank you to everyone working on all fronts of the divestment and climate justice movement who expressed love and solidarity. We felt the strength of this movement behind us throughout the day, and know that the true meaning of our action is realized in the context of this global campaign. Thank you to the over 150 people who showed up for us, stayed with us, celebrated with us, got angry with us, and received 19 of us outside Woodbridge Hall at the end of the day. It’s difficult to express just how much your presence meant, and will continue to mean to us going forward. You all gave us the courage we needed, and we could not have done it without you. Thank you all so much.

We also want to thank the Yale Police Department and the administrative staff in Woodbridge Hall for the respect and accommodation they showed to us while we were in the building. We appreciated your patience and understanding about why we needed to take this step in our campaign.

While we are very proud of what we accomplished on Thursday and the way our community came together with love and support, we know that much more work lies ahead before we can truly celebrate. We must remember why we decided to take this action, and why we believe in fossil fuel divestment. There is an incredible amount at stake here. Each day that continues with business as usual, we inch closer to climate catastrophe, and each day the fossil fuel industry continues to exploit our planet and our peoples for the sake of profit. Lives continue to be lost. Sitting in Woodbridge Hall and risking disciplinary action and arrest will never compare to the risks faced by those living on the frontlines of the struggle for climate justice. Even as we celebrate victories in our campaign, we must never forget for what and whom we do this work. Our work is far from over.

Shortly after entering Woodbridge Hall, FFY organizer Phoebe Chatfield read a statement to President Salovey asking that the Yale Corporation publicly commit to reconsider divestment. President Salovey responded by redirecting us back to the bureaucratic channels through which we have been working for two years with little progress. This was not a response. Our demand was not that Yale explain its administrative processes, nor was it that Yale commit to divestment while we were still in Woodbridge. Rather, we demanded only that decision-makers address the social injustices of the fossil fuel industry and recognize the widespread community support for divestment. Our ask was merely that the administration commit to reconsider our proposal in full. Yale’s failure to engage in a conversation on climate justice shows just how unaccountable the true decision-makers are to the Yale community, which has demonstrated overwhelming support on all fronts. We believe in the justice of our cause, and we will not be satisfied until Yale chooses to divest from fossil fuels.

The administration’s reaction on Thursday made it clear that they are unwilling to engage with this issue authentically. In this way, Yale continues to disappoint us. The University has disappointed us by ignoring the premise of our arguments, by avoiding real dialogue, by pointing us to unaccountable and ineffective administrative channels, and ultimately, by deciding that they would rather arrest and punish 19 students than commit to engage in true conversation.

Yale further disappointed us with an aggressive reaction to peaceful protest. University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews threatened students engaging in civil disobedience with disciplinary action that could result in suspension or expulsion. Yale disappointed us once again when representatives from the University tried to spin the story, claiming that students were not actually arrested but only cited with “infractions.” This is a blatant attempt to cover up what administrators know was an embarrassing display that contradicted the values of the University. The Yale Police informed us that we were being arrested multiple times, and our legal counsel confirms that arrests took place. No other University administration in the United States has arrested a single student for attempting a sit-in for fossil fuel divestment. Yale arrested 19. Yale has made clear whose side they are on, and it is not the side of the students.

As Thursday’s action demonstrates, the state of our campaign is stronger than ever. We are excited to move forward on all fronts. As of Friday, April 10th, 62 Yale professors have signed a letter of support urging the Corporation to reconsider fossil fuel divestment, with more signatures added every day. We have meetings planned with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, with whom we will continue discussing arguments for divestment. And, we are excited to continue working with other groups and students on campus. Our sit-in and our campaign for divestment is a part of a larger movement for student voice on this campus known as Unite Yale that works in solidarity with students organizing around cultural centers, financial aid, and mental health reform.

Lastly, we still need your support. On Thursday, Yale fined 19 students $92 each. The combined total of the fines is $1,748, a significant financial burden for these individuals and our campaign. Please donate here to help defray the cost: www.fossilfreeyale.org/donate. Any amount helps.

Onwards and in solidarity,

Fossil Free Yale

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