A series of sit-ins and protests urging universities to divest their endowments from fossil fuels gained new strength this week, as students at the University of Montana, Vassar College, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison launched their own actions to combat climate change.
Two nights in a row, on Monday and Tuesday multiple students at Northern Arizona University (NAU) were arrested for taking part in a nonviolent action demanding their school divest from oil and gas companies.
“Our administration would rather arrest students then take serious action on climate change,” lamented Fossil Free NAU on its Facebook page.
“We believe that it is morally unjust to be investing in a dying industry,” said NAU senior Michaela Mujica-Steiner, one of the coordinators of the school sit-in. “We would like to see the school step up and lead with students who are currently demonstrating leadership.”
NAU President Rita Cheng has promised to issue an official statement late Wednesday.
In Montana, 16 protesters were issued citations for trespassing on Tuesday when they refused to vacate a university building where they were attempting a sit-in.
“It’s not acceptable anymore to be neutral on this position,” said protester Shannon Curry to local news outlet KPAX. “As students of a university in America, we have incredible privilege and power, and we need to leverage that power to do right in the world, and moving forward is no longer something we can continue to talk about, it’s something that we have to do.”
In New York, students at Vassar College on Monday began the largest climate justice protest in the school’s history, staging a peaceful sit-in outside of the college president’s office. The sit-in entered its third day on Wednesday.
“We cannot continue to fund our education with profits made from fossil fuel exploitation, which destroys communities and lives, not just the environment. How can Vassar claim to be a leader when it has so clearly fallen behind in the fight for climate justice?” said Martin Man, a college senior.
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