DivestNU puts pressure on Northeastern

By Scotty Schenck

Posted Oct. 28, 2016, Last updated: Oct. 31, 2016

DivestNU, a coalition of student groups at Northeastern University, set up tents in Centennial Common from Monday, Oct. 3 to Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. The movement is dedicated to the University divesting, or removing all investments, from the fossil fuel industry. They began escalating their protests after a student referendum in 2014, in which 75 percent of the 3,625 student voters chose to divest. The University created the Social Impact Council later that year in response, who in March 2016 recommended full divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

The University has not accepted that recommendation or committed to divestment. It did, however, announce in July 2016 that it would invest $25 million in "environmental sustainability," such as clean energy, renewables and agriculture. 

"We have deliberately chosen to invest, not divest. This approach is consistent with Northeastern's character as an institution that actively engages with the world, not one that retreats from global challenges," Northeastern Senior Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Thomas Nedell said in a statement in July 2016.

Not believing that the University's action was ample, DivestNU began their encampment of Centennial, as well as other actions. They held multiple rallies in Centennial, as well as delivering a letter, signed by 58 faculty members, to the Provost James Bean's office calling for divestment. On Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, DivestNU ended its stay in Centennial. On that day, they staged multiple mock oil-spills and pretended to die demonstrate the effects of human-driven climate change. In addition, the group disrupted the 2016 State of the University Speech on Thursday, Oct. 20, when Northeastern President Joseph Aoun took the stage. 

"We demonstrated our capacity to assert the student voice, and together we're going to old President Aoun accountable to this question: will he stand with students or with the fossil fuel industry?" Austin Williams, co-founder of DivestNU, said.