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Tufts blocks food at protest

Students and alumni at Tufts University entered the university president’s office in Medford Wednesday and began a sit-in. David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

One day after Tufts University students and alumni began a protest to urge the school to divest from fossil fuel companies, school officials told protesters no food could be brought into their sit-in.

Student leaders from the group Tufts Climate Action, which began the protest by entering president Anthony Monaco’s office in Ballou Hall Wednesday morning, received the news during a negotiation meeting with Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell Thursday morning.

“We were told we can’t have food delivered or brought in to us,” said Shana Gallagher, spokeswoman for the student group. “They would rather starve us out than commit to any sort of open communication.”


The protesters want the university to commit to divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies over a five-year period and freeze all new investments immediately, she explained.

The university said in a statement: “Students chose to disregard university policy by entering and occupying a private office despite clear instructions by Tufts public safety officers not to do so. Having made that choice, they are not able to have food delivered. They do have restroom facilities and water.”

The 33 students, alumni, and local supporters involved in the protest had planned to remain in the office indefinitely, Gallagher said, but will now only stay while their food supplies last, likely through Friday.

“This isn’t a hunger strike,” she said, “so we’re not going to put ourselves in harm. But even if they starve us out, we’ll be back.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Tufts said it recognizes the diversity of opinions on the subject of divestment and welcomes continued discussion that is thoughtful and respectful.

“Tufts University is proud of its students’ active involvement in a wide range of issues,” the statement said. “However, it is important that the debate about divestment not overshadow the progress Tufts is making in support of environmental stewardship.”


The university said it has launched a new sustainability investment fund, has begun construction of a high-efficiency central energy plant, and is making new investments in recycling and waste-reduction programs.

Members of Tufts Climate Action believe the efforts need to go further.

“We are hoping to reopen that line of communication and make sure we can be working with the administration on the issue of fossil fuels,” Gallagher said.

The sit-in at Tufts is the latest in a series of protests staged at Boston-area schools recently to urge fossil fuel divestment. Last week, a group of Harvard students and their supporters rallied in Harvard Yard.

Last year, Tufts determined that divestment “would have an immediate adverse impact on the educational experience at Tufts,” and it “would not be prudent to expose the university to that kind of risk at this time,” the university said in a statement on Wednesday.

The university said a group of students, trustees, faculty, and staff concluded that “divestment would likely result in a significant reduction in operating funds.”

“We will continue to examine the feasibility of divestment in the future,” the Wednesday statement said.

Aneri Pattani can be reached at aneri.pattani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @apattani95.