On Thursday afternoon several students from Tufts Divest went into a prospective students’ info session and asked the admissions officer several questions about Tufts’ investments in the fossil fuels industry. Parents and students in the info session reacted negatively to the interruption, frustrated that their already limited time was being cut short. A few parents from the audience expressed their discontent aggressively, verbally attacking the students from Tufts Divest. The action was recorded and subsequently leaked through Facebook provoking a brief, albeit controversial reaction among Tufts students. Many members of the student body expressed disapproval of the action, believing the activists did not represent Tufts accurately and instead left prospective students with an undeservedly negative image of the university.
Tufts Divest would like to clarify that the goal of this action was not to deter students from coming to Tufts. We regret that the action quickly devolved into such a chaotic and uncontrollable scene and that it upset Tufts students. We entered the info session intending to pose a rhetorical question about Tufts’ continued investments in the fossil fuel industry despite its heavily advertised commitment to sustainability and persistent student pressure to divest. We hoped to pose our question to the admissions officer during the question and answer session originally planned for the last few minutes.
We intended to briefly and succinctly explain to those present Tufts’ estimated $70 million worth of investments in the fossil fuel industry and the irrevocable harm it is causing our planet in no more than one or two minutes.
Unfortunately, the meeting began later than expected and the admissions officer abruptly announced that there would not be time for questions at the end. Pressed for time, the members of Tufts Divest decided to raise their hands near the end of the session. Their question was immediately met with backlash from the parents present and all three left within minutes after posing their question. Needless to say, the intended message was not transmitted to those present or to the viewers of the video online.
As members of Tufts Divest, we are proud to call ourselves Tufts students. We pride ourselves in Tufts’ commitment to sustainability and want to attract the best and the brightest potential students to our school. Our goal is not to dissuade visiting students but to encourage them to join the Tufts community and help us make it a better place. We also aim to raise awareness of the unfolding climate crisis. It is an all-encompassing threat to social justice and human survival that is already affecting marginalized indigenous communities and millions of the world’s poor and disadvantaged. Parents and prospective students deserve to know about Tufts’ complicity in climate change and the environmental racism that is a direct result of the University’s investment in fossil fuels.
Although we are all implicated in perpetuating climate injustice and global warming as a result of our dependence on fossil fuels, the fossil fuel industry is most at fault. As the most powerful industry in the world, it continues to pour billions of dollars into suppressing the truth of climate science, impeding meaningful political change via heavy political lobbying, and blocking climate justice from the discourse of the mainstream media. The industry thus prevents the transition to renewable energy sources at the cost of the global majority. Divestment is a strategy that has forced politicians to implement binding legislation and is best remembered for the successful campaign that helped dismantle apartheid South Africa. We cannot ignore the urgency of climate injustice by focusing on the short-term when people around the world are suffering from rising food prices, intensifying drought and destruction of their communities. Divestment is the most effective means by which we can target the fossil fuel industry and end climate injustice.
Tufts Divest has tried to work through the official channels of change. Since the onset of our campaign, members of Tufts Divest have actively reached out to and engaged with University President Anthony Monaco, Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell, a variety of faculty and staff members, and the Board of Trustees. We have met with the Board of Trustees twice this semester as well as with President Monaco. In December Tufts Divest submitted a formal proposal to the Board of Trustees after collecting over 1,000 petition signatures from fellow students. In February the Tufts Community Union Senate voted 24-1 in favor of divestment. Support for divestment is rapidly growing at Tufts and at over 300 other universities nationwide. However, despite our persistent efforts to work cohesively alongside the administration we also need the university to show they are supportive of our movement.
Unfortunately, students involved in the campaign are increasingly seeing that the board of Trustees is at best reluctant towards — and at worst pointedly against — divesting Tufts’ endowment from fossil fuels. Communication with the Board is limited and has yielded few results — meetings have been postponed indefinitely and their aversion to our movement is evident. Tufts Divest’s frustration with the administration’s hesitation and continued failure to follow through was a factor in Thursday’s action.
Climate change is the social justice issue of our generation. As the clock quickly turns and our planet bears the brunt of our political leaders’ failure to act, we as students must rise up to save our future. Tufts is an agent of environmental racism as long as the Board continues its massive investments in fossil fuel companies. We call on the student body to join Tufts Divest is standing up against global injustice and in support of divestment.
Please contact members of Tufts Divest for more information or come to our weekly meeting in East Hall Lounge on Mondays at 9:30 p.m. to help plan future divest events and strategies. We would love to continue this conversation.
Lila Kohrman-Glaser is a sophomore majoring in biology and psychology. She can be reached at Lila.Kohrman_Glaser@tufts.edu. Sophia Goodfriend is a freshman who has not yet declared a major. She can be reached at Sophia.Goodfriend@tufts.edu. Will Pearl is a freshman who has not yet declared a major. He can be reached at William.Pearl@tufts.edu. Anna Lello-Smith is a junior majoring in biology. She can be reached at Anna.Lello_Smith@tufts.edu.