Tufts Divestment Protests Continue Inside, Outside Administrative Building

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Photo by Kyle Clauss

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Update: Friday, 5:09 p.m.

Tufts spokeswoman Kimberly M. Thurler has confirmed the sit-in has ended and the students have left President Monaco’s office.

Update: Friday, 4:06 p.m.

Thurler provided the following statement via email: “We know that our community members have a range of views about divestment and hold those views passionately. We continue to welcome discussion of this subject that is thoughtful and respectful. President Monaco has offered to meet with students once the unauthorized occupation of his office has ended. Neither his office nor offices of other senior university leaders received any requests to meet prior to this unauthorized action.”

A sit-in protest held in Tufts University’s administrative building advocating for divestment from fossil fuels has now dragged into its third day despite a dwindling food supply, while protests outside called for administration to act.

Between 16 and 20 students, mostly members of Tufts for Climate Action (TCA), remain in President Anthony Monaco’s office inside Ballou Hall since the sit-in began Wednesday. TCA demands that the university immediately divest its holding in publicly traded fossil fuel companies, which accounts for roughly $80 million of Tufts’ $2 billion endowment.

“For those who are just joining us: we are not sitting in because it’s fun,” freshman Makaylah Respicio told the crowd assembled outside Ballou Hall. “We are doing this because we have been left no other option for meaningful dialogue on divestment.”

TCA had planned to hold a press conference Friday at noon. However, all press was barred from entering Ballou. Deputy Chief of Tufts Police Mark Keith said that administration would not allow TCA to hold a presser inside.

“There are still a number of us inside, and we are being threatened with severe disciplinary action should we stay,” Shana Gallagher said in an email. “Press have been refused entry to the building. We do still have food and intend to stay here as long as possible. We are not allowed to shout out the window or communicate with the press in any way, but there is a rally going on outside to support us.”

It’s no coincidence the demonstrations took place as crowds of accepted students and their parents and guardians roamed the green, curious about the commotion.

“We want accepted students to realize how the university invests,” says sophomore Brian McGough. “It puts the university in an uncomfortable position, to be managing students in the president’s office on Accepted Students Day. This is less about Earth Day and more about the pressure we can enact against the university.”

“Students chose to disregard university policy by entering and occupying a private office despite clear instructions by Tufts public safety officers not to do so,” a Tufts spokeswoman told Boston in a statement Thursday. “Having made that choice, they are not able to have food delivered. They do have restroom facilities and water. Our executive vice president met with the students early this morning and will continue that dialogue.”

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Photo by Kyle Clauss

This didn’t stop students from trying to get food into Ballou. Members of the school’s janitors union, 32BJ SEIU, attempted to bring several pizzas inside the building, to no avail. It was a gesture of solidarity, thanking the students for staging a similar, 33-hour sit-in in December protesting proposed cuts to the janitorial staff.

“I want to make clear that we stand in solidarity with those sitting upstairs,” janitor Paola Castillo told the crowd through a translator. “You students, you are the motor of this school.”

Students who remained inside were given forms signed by Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and Judicial Affairs Administrator Mickey Toogood and obtained by Boston, requesting they provide their name and school ID number, and relocate the protest to an outdoor location. “Refusal to leave will be grounds for individual disciplinary action,” it reads.

Tufts will issue another statement later this afternoon.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2015/04/24/tufts-university-divestment-protests/