Students march against school’s portfolio
Want fossil fuel investments, Puerto Rican debt eliminated
NEW HAVEN — More than 100 Yale University students and their supporters marched from outside the Sterling Memorial Library to the school’s Investment office on Whitney Avenue Friday to protest how the school invests
Chanting, “No hate, no fear, divestment starts here,” and other slogans, the marchers from a coalition of student groups and labor organizations sought to force the university to order fund managers to cancel Puerto Rican debt holdings and disclose in
what fossil fuel corporations Yale is invested. The marchers want the university to divest from fossil fuel companies.
In addition to the march, a group of 54 students staged a sit-in at the investment office that began at noon Friday.
“They are willing to risk arrest if we don’t get what we want,” Martin Man, a third-year student in Yale’s graduate architecture program
and one of the organizers of the protests, said of those participating in the sit-in.
Yale police later arrest arrested 48 of the people who participated in the sit-in once the investment office closed at 5 p.m., according to Man
Among the groups leading the protest were Fossil Free Yale, with which Man is affiliated , and Despierta Boricua, the school’s Puerto Rican student association.
“We are here today to call Yale out on its complicity on climate injustice and the Puerto Rican debt,” said Ale Canales, a junior in Berkeley College who was one of the leaders of the march. The fund managers with which Yale’s investment offices works are seeking to assure that their claims get paid before other creditors as Puerto Rico seeks to solve its debt crisis.
Members of Local 33 Unite Here, a labor union that represents thousands of clerical, technical, facilities and cafeteria employees at Yale, also were involved in the protest. Charles Decker, a member of the Local 33 research team, said the fossil fuel investments and efforts to get priority among Puerto Rico’s creditors are “only one instance of Yale’s seeking to profit from the debt and from the pain of people of color.”
Until the arrest of those who participated in the sit-in, Yale University officials had taken the day’s events in stride.
“Our students are engaged and passionate, and freedom of expression is central to their education,” Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said Friday. “Peaceful demonstrations about various issues are going to be part of that.”
Yale officials contend the school was at the forefront of the ethical investment movement, with initial efforts dating back to 1969. The university’s board of trustees, formally known as the Yale Corporation, would later form the Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility to review issues relating to ethical investing.
That committee has addressed concerns about fossil fuel investments and Puerto Rican debt in the past, according to university officials.
The group, which is supported by the Yale Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, announced in 2014 that the best way for Yale to address climate change concerns was through a policy of shareholder engagement rather than divestiture.
The Yale Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility addressed the Puerto Rican debt issue in October 2017, determining that divestment from Puerto Rican debt was not warranted when an investor is abiding by the applicable legal framework in a process in which the debtor’s interests are appropriately represented. Jonathan Macey, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, has said there have been no allegations of unethical debt collection efforts or practices and that investment managers have fiduciary duties to their investors that likely preclude them from unilaterally forgiving Puerto Rico’s payment obligations.
Man said following the march that university officials “proudly celebrate the history of the Civil Rights Movement on campus, but are quick to punish student organizers for participating in peaceful protest.”
“The funds for our education should not come from environmental destruction and predatory debt,” Man said. “These investments are immoral. They signal that the university sees no issue with the hypocrisy of supporting and profiting from fossil fuel extraction, climate injustice, and neo-colonial exploitation while priding itself in its climate science research and education of social justice.”
More than 100 Yale University students begin their march from Sterling Memorial Library to the school’s investment office on Whitney Avenue Friday in New Haven.
Protesters outside Yale University’s Sterling Memorial library listen to speakers during a rally and march Friday.