Divest Tulane organizes sit-in in Gibson Hall

Kate Jamison, Senior Staff Reporter

Update:

Divest Tulane will be holding a rally Friday in Gibson Hall at 2 p.m, according to the organization’s Facebook page. Following the rally, members of Divest Tulane and other students will be marching across campus. 

“We are escalating our escalation…” the description for the event states. “We love Tulane. We love New Orleans. We demand change.”

Original Story:

Members of Divest Tulane marched into President Michael Fitts’ office Tuesday morning and presented him with a letter asking if he will side with the students seeking Tulane’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

After giving Fitts the letter, they didn’t leave. 

More than 70 students are congregated on the main floor of Gibson Hall this week as part of a sit-in for Divest Tulane. These students have sat outside administrators’ offices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m since Tuesday and plan to stay until 5 p.m. Thursday. 

Fitch said Divest Tulane decided to organize a sit-in after concluding that its previous efforts were not being recognized by the administration. 

“We’ve known that escalation was necessary for a couple months now,” Fitch said. “We were getting caught up in administrative meetings, so we knew we had to pursue different ways of addressing the administration.”

Former President Scott Cowen sent a letter to Divest Tulane in May 2014 which stated that the university would not to divest from fossil fuels. The entire Tulane board, which controls the endowment, has not voted on divestment, but members of the board were involved in Cowen’s decision. 

Divest Tulane leaders have been working with other divestment groups across the country to collaborate on ideas for protests. Divest Tulane has since joined a group of clubs at seven colleges that are committed to being the escalation core for the national movement. The seven schools are Swarthmore College, Bowdoin College, University of California- Berkeley, Harvard University, University of Colorado- Boulder, University of Massachusetts and Reed College. These schools are working to bring the movement into the spotlight and to increase pressure on administrators. 

Executive Director of Public Relations Michael Strecker said, in a statement sent Tuesday, that the board will meet with members of Divest Tulane .

“Tulane University supports and protects the right of our students to protest,” the statement read. “We admire their commitment and passion on this and other issues. We have been in an ongoing conversation with Divest Tulane students regarding this matter. President Mike Fitts and members of the Board of Tulane have previously met with Divest Tulane students and the Endowment Committee of the Board of Tulane has committed to meet with them at its September meeting.”

The sit-in took hours of logistical planning, Fitch said. 

“The strategic team has been meeting for about ten hours every week to plan every single detail of the sit-in,” she said. “We have figured out everything from recruitment plans to contingency plans for the police.”

The Tulane campus has been criticized in the past for its lack of social activism. Sophomore Elias Garcia, an active member of Divest Tulane, agreed.

“The campus doesn’t consider organizing a priority,” Garcia said. “The campus climate isn’t receptive to discussing difficult issues such as race or wealth differences.”

Fitch said that Divest aims to send a message to the entire Tulane community with the demonstration, particularly to President Fitts. 

“In the past, Fitts has been reluctant to make any type of strong statement about his stance on Divestment,” Fitch said. “We’re hoping that this sit-in forces him to speak up and finally choose a side- the students, or the fossil fuel industry.”

If the sit-in is not successful, Garcia said Divest will work to recruit more students to organizing in favor of divestment to show the administration that this issue is important to Tulane students.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the sit-in would last until Fitts gave Divest Tulane a response. It has been corrected to say that the sit-in ends on Thursday at 5 p.m.

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