On Thursday afternoon, about 50 people planned to march to the office of University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 and protest the University’s investments in fossil fuel companies.
Divest Princeton organized this demonstration. The group was created in 2019 and is a collective effort between undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and some faculty members. In addition to the protest, Divest Princeton delivered a proposal to the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) to the door of Nassau Hall, petitioning that the University divest from all fossil fuel companies.
University spokesperson Ben Chang confirmed that the President’s Office and CPUC received the proposal. Chang noted that the CPUC Resources Committee, which is responsible for review of divestment matters, will begin the established process for considering divestment proposals.
The protest began in front of Frist Campus Center, where organizers gathered with signs and invited passersby to join in the protest. An iPad was passed around for students to sign a petition, stating that they would not donate money after graduating until the University divested. That survey currently has 800 signatures from current students and alumni.
Tom Taylor, a graduate student and leader of Divest Princeton, introduced the cause and taught the crowd a chant, originally used in the 1980s during protests against investment in companies supporting South African Apartheid.
“Princeton divest / just like the rest / and if you don’t / we will not rest,” they chanted as they marched to Nassau Hall.
Upon reaching Nassau Hall, Divest Princeton member Kenji Cataldo ’20 read an open letter published in today’s opinion section of The Daily Princetonian beginning with “Princeton must divest from fossil fuels.” The open letter also listed demands that Divest Princeton has included in their proposal to the CPUC.
According to Micah Fletcher, a graduate student and another leader of Divest Princeton, the CPUC, PRINCO, and the Board of Trustees have five guidelines for divestment, which Divest Princeton has used as the headers for its document.
“One of [the headers] is the idea that the core values of the University are at stake and it would be inconsistent for the University to associate and support companies that are against our core values,” Fletcher said.
During the reading, the crowd was positive and enthusiastic, cheering and applauding as Cataldo read the demands.
Demi Zhang ’21 stated that while she didn’t agree with all the demands, she appreciated that the group was sparking a conversation on campus.
“Of the many points … the third point was the University ceasing to accept funding for climate change research from the companies that are still partaking in fossil fuels, and obviously for someone that may be engaged in that research … and taking away their funding, does that limit their opportunities? These are questions that need to be asked,“ Zhang said.
According to Divest Princeton, the University has divested in the past, from South African Apartheid divestment in the 80s, to divestment from companies doing business in Darfur, South Sudan in 2006.
Naomi Cohen Shields ’20, one of the founding members of Divest Princeton and the leader of the Princeton Environmental Activism Coalition, pointed out that the University has divested previously in other humanitarian crises. Cohen Shields noted that it is important to recognize climate change as a humanitarian crisis as well.
Divest Princeton leaders also reiterated multiple times that divesting from fossil fuels is representative of the University upholding its unofficial motto: “In the Nation’s Service and in the Service of Humanity.”
“The University makes all these claims about how they are committed to addressing climate change and sustainability initiatives and basically preserving this ideal of being in the nation’s service and protecting its student body … we believe firmly that the University’s investment and endowment are part of those,” Cohen Shields said.
Divest Princeton stated that they will be deciding shortly regarding when they will make their CPUC Proposal public.