Columbia U Threatens to Suspend Students Over Divestment Sit in
NEW YORK - Email on 4/17 from Rules Administrator and Executive Vice President of Student Life, Suzanne Goldberg, to the 7 protestors remaining in Low:
Columbia University administrators have, for the first time, explicitly threatened to suspend the seven student protestors entering the fifth day of a sit-in in the iconic Low Library building. The students, who began occupying the hallway outside of President Bollinger’s office on Thursday evening with the support of over 50 students, received an increasingly threatening disciplinary email on Sunday night.
“Suspension threats are the administration's way of bullying us out of Low Library. They seek to drain our morale and demoralize the group. This strategy has failed largely due to the support we have received from on campus groups dedicated to peaceful protest,” said Lucas Zeppetello, SEAS senior and Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ) organizer currently continuing to occupy Low. Although the group's intention was only to disrupt President Bollinger's office, the entire building has been on lockdown since Thursday.
The seven CDCJ student organizers maintain that they will not leave until their demand for President Bollinger to recommend divestment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies to the Board of Trustees is met. They have published statements from 18 student groups in support of their protest.
“Students’ strong passion demonstrated for this issue has received praise from many, including President Bollinger, and for this reason, we believe suspension or expulsion would be an overly severe sanction,” wrote Columbia College Student Council in a statement to be published on Monday.
CDCJ has been calling on President Bollinger and the Board to stand on the right side of history and divest the $9.2 billion endowment’s direct and indirect holdings from coal, oil, and natural gas since the fall of 2012. The administration and its subcommittee on socially responsible investing have failed to listen to the demands already endorsed by over 1,600 student petition signatures and 340 faculty members. 30 members of the Earth Institute, including Director Jeffrey Sachs, recently supported divestment.
Rules Administrator Suzanne Goldberg, who sent the email threatening suspension, actually has no right within the scope of her role in the University judicial process to make such a threat; her claim exposes the administration’s tactic of hoping to scare protestors into leaving Low instead of addressing their demands.
This action comes in the midst of a wave of escalatory action by fossil fuel divestment campaigns across the nation, including at Harvard and the University of Massachusetts. Yale announced that it has partially divested from fossil fuels on Tuesday, April 12.
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice is a coalition of students and community members dedicated to divesting Columbia's endowment from fossil fuels.