Students form a giant sun in Washington Square Park. (Photo courtesy of Williams Agate.)
NYU’s Divest campaign met with senior university administrators on Wednesday, providing a faint glimpse of hope for a provocative movement that’s been spreading quickly at other universities across the nation.
At the same moment, NYU students, alumni, and supporters formed a giant sun in the middle of Washington Square Park; waving orange balloons to a chorus of “Let The Sunshine In.” The action was meant as a motion of solidarity to call attention to the pressing nature of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, and the climate movement itself.
“The climate crisis is incredibly urgent, and we need to move as fast as we can,” Belinda Rodriguez, NYU alumnus and leader of the student demonstration, told NYU Local. “We hope that NYU will come out as a leader in this movement.”
The group, which hosted author and climate activist Bill McKibben last February, is calling for the university to immediately freeze its new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies, and to phase out all other existing oil and gas company holdings within the next five years. On Wednesday, they met with several top stakeholders, including NYU’s Executive Vice President Mike Alfano (President John Sexton’s second-in-command), Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology Martin Dorph, and Executive Vice President of Operations Alison Leary to discuss the issue. The group’s main argument was that their cause was a “natural extension” of the university’s stated commitment to sustainability.
“Our global university is inescapably ‘in and of this world,’ indeed embedded within it,” said Julianne Warren, ecologist and professor in Liberal Studies and Environmental Studies, who led the contingent to the twelfth floor of Bobst. “Since fossil fuel burning is the major direct factor in climate change, it makes sense for the university to divest from the fossil fuel industry in harmony with its endowment’s mission of intergenerational stewardship.”