On Monday Oct 3rd, I happened to walk by Centennial to class and saw giant signs and tents everywhere. Curiosity got the better of me, so I went up to the students sitting there and asked about their cause.
They were representing Divest NU, a coalition of student groups who want Northeastern to pull their investments from companies and organizations that are hurting the environment. They plan to camp out on the quad (in rotating shifts to accommodate class/other needs) until the powers-that-be at Northeastern change their ways.
“We want the administration to divest and we’ll be here until they do,” said Sara O’Brien, a fourth year political science major. “Climate change is just one of the things the administration should be divesting from.”
Of the coalition, Student for Justice in Palestine, HEAT, Progressive Student Alliance, Feminist Student Organization, and NU Buddhists were present while I was there.
Last year 75% of Northeastern students who voted on Divest NU’s referendum voted in favor of divestment according to O’Brien. While Northeastern said they were going to make changes over the summer, the protestors said this didn’t go far enough.
“Over the summer Northeastern put out a letter about how they’re going to invest 25 million dollars in sustainable investments, and in the same post they included how they couldn’t divest as it was a retreat from global challenges,” said fourth year psychology major Gabby Thurston. “We’re here today to say that we haven’t gone away, and that we still want divestment.”
I returned again on Tuesday to see if I could find anyone who had spent the night on Centennial. Ethan Skutt, a second year mechanical engineering student, described the overnight atmosphere as upbeat.
“We had some good conversations around here, and had a lot of good energy. We took turn keeping watch so some of us could sleep,” said Skutt. “So far, no one has asked us to leave. We have been informed by administration if there are any previously scheduled activities here, they’ll consider it a violation if we stay, which will be followed by action.”
In preparing for this protest, the Divest NU group had reached out to the National Lawyer Guild (NLG), which third year electrical engineering student Nick Boyd called “a liberal leaning alternative to the bar association.” The NLG, which provides legal counseling for people fighting for civil rights, provided their services for free.
Being a business major in addition to journalism, I have a unique view on divest campaigns, and how they impact the overall market (hint: they don’t), but think the students have chosen an interesting way to make their point. Here’s hoping the weather makes it easier on them.