Tufts protesters end sit-in demanding fossil fuel divestment
University promises meeting on issue
A 55-hour sit-in at Tufts University ended Friday evening after administrators promised that students who were protesting the school’s investment in fossil fuels could meet with trustees.
A spokeswoman for the student group, Tufts Climate Action, called the three-day protest a success, and said they would continue to push the university to divest.
“This day was a win,” Shana Gallagher said.
The sit-in was the latest in a series of protests at colleges around the country recently to urge fossil fuel divestment. Last week, a group of Harvard students and their supporters rallied in Harvard Yard and blocked administrators from entering their offices for a week.
At Tufts, protesters want the university to commit to divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies over a five-year period and freeze all new investments in those companies immediately. The student group said in a statement that it believes Tufts’s investment in fossil fuel companies encourages “climate devastation and pollution.”
Seventeen of the 33 students and alumni who began the sit-in Wednesday had remained Friday.
Earlier in the day, Tufts officials had said students they could face disciplinary action if they continued to occupy the office of president Anthony Monaco.
Protesters from the group, who entered the office in Ballou Hall Wednesday morning, said administrators warned that they could be placed on probation or suspended. University spokeswoman Kim Thurler said seniors participating in the protest could lose privileges associated with graduation.
“The students chose to disregard university policy by entering and occupying a private office despite clear instructions by Tufts police officers not to do so,” Thurler said in an e-mail.
The college said it had not determined whether protesters could still face discipline.
Dwindling provisions contributed to the decision to end the protest Friday. Administrators blocked food from reaching the protestors, including pizza delivered by the janitor’s union. Protestors had only packed enough for three days.
On Friday afternoon, they signed a written agreement with the administration that grants students a meeting with trustees next semester. The college also said an outside specialist will meet with Tufts’ endowment oversight committee to discuss divestment.
The students sought to meet with Monaco, who had been traveling and Friday was committed to a full day of meetings, Thurler said.
“President Monaco has refused to come back to his own office and meet with us, despite being on campus,” the student group said at the rally. “Our administration has told us that if we are to have any form of communication with the board, it won’t happen until next semester.”
Thurler said the president had offered to meet with students once they left his office but “neither his office nor the offices of other senior university leaders received any requests from students asking to meet prior to this unauthorized action.”
The university has said it will continue to consider the possibility of divestment in the future.