NU Divest, Unshackle NU and Fossil Free Northwestern student leaders discussed their movements and their interactions with university administrators Tuesday.
At the event, called “Behind Closed Doors: The Stifling of Divestment Movements at Northwestern,” the students expressed their belief that students do not have adequate access to or control over Northwestern’s investments.
This event comes a week after some members of ASG demanded “The disclosing of all information concerning the investment of our endowment,” “[the] establishment of a socially responsible investment committee consisting of students, faculty and staff that regularly assesses the ethical implications of Northwestern’s [investments]” and consults with students of the divestment movements and “the complete divestment from corporations profiting off human rights violations” at a dinner at President Schapiro’s house. After reading the demands, the ASG members left Schapiro’s house in solidarity with protesters outside Schapiro’s home. Tuesday’s event is just one in a saga of discord between University administration and student activists.
This discord was apparent from the beginning of the event, when ASG president-elect and FFNU Community Outreach Coordinator Christina Cilento said, “Our intention behind this event is to be incredibly transparent about what’s going on with divestment at Northwestern, because administrators are not.”
On the Facebook event for the discussion, students wrote “student voices are being ignored.” University administrators don’t see it that way.
“I believe nothing could be further from the truth. They have had unprecedented access to staff and trustee leadership including a session with the Investment subcommittee. Their voices contributed to us being the third school to sign on to the UN supported Principles for Responsible Investing and to the establishment of an advisory committee on campus,” Will McLean, Northwestern’s Chief Investment Officer, told NBN via email.
Cilento acknowledged this view, but she said that this access amounted to about an hour and a half of the board’s time over the past three years. She said limited access has made it difficult to advance the conversation because they often have to start from square one with new board members.
Students also said that administrators see some movements as more legitimate than others.
“We have not had any access to the board of trustees,“ Ruba Assaf, a member of NU Divest, said.
NU Divest and Unshackle NU’s Marcel Hanna agreed.
“The fact that Morty’s never even talked about [NU Divest and Unshackle NU] while he’s talking about investment and divestment just shows how dismissive they are,” he said.
They also compared student access at Northwestern to access at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. According to FFNU’s Scott Brown, Columbia’s board of trustees has an advisory committee and the University of Chicago has a student representative on the board of trustees who is allotted five minutes to speak at board meetings.
The students also talked about the intersections of the three movements.
“They’re all based on corporations that are profiting off the violation of human rights," Brown said. "Fossil fuel companies are polluting the air of marginalized communities and destroying the planet, and the people that are impacted the most are developing nations and communities of color.”
They also talked about how the movements are strongest when they come together and have numbers.
“When we had the huge march from the Black House and gave our list of demands, that’s when the University actually responded to us," Hanna said. "That's when we had a lot of numbers.”