Written by Davis Winslow, M.S. Urban Policy Analysis & Management ’15 at the New School; Student Assistant, Academic Sustainability Initiatives
Universities recently celebrated Campus Sustainability Day, an annual event to promote sustainability initiatives on campuses around the country. This year, The New School, in New York City, took the opportunity to highlight its ongoing fossil fuel divestment campaign by making it the focus of last week’s Student Sustainability Festival.
Propelled by the University Student Senate’s (USS) recent passing of a resolution recommending the school to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, the event gathered students and faculty members from across the University to talk about what divestment would mean for The New School.
Izza Aftab, an Economics PhD candidate in The New School for Social Research, spoke on behalf of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR), a committee made up of students and faculty. The ACIR advises the Investor Committee of the Board of Trustees on incorporating social, environmental and corporate governance issues into the management of the University’s endowment, and has been one of the main drivers of the divestment campaign at the school. The ACIR’s report, “Putting Our Endowment Money Where Our Mission Is”, serves as the preliminary roadmap for The New School to divest its endowment.
With the work of the USS and ACIR paving the way, the task is now on students to voice their concern about this issue. The festival marked a step in that direction, with students from across the University signing up to become involved in the campaign.
The event was joined by representatives of divestment movements at Columbia University and NYU, who spoke about the campaigns underway at their universities. This cross-city collaboration underscored the importance of the divestment movement across New York City and highlighted the potential for The New School to be a catalyst for neighboring universities. If The New School were to divest, it would become the largest university to do so and would provide much-needed leverage for campaigns across the city.
The festival was capped with a video messa
ge from Bill McKibben, who encouraged the movement to press on. In addition to citing the recent Oxford study highlighting the potential threat the divestment movement poses to the fossil fuel industry, Bill noted the impact The New School can have as a major institution in New York City:
There in the heart of New York, it would ma
ke a huge impact. It would be a huge deal there in the cultural capital of the world and the financial capital of the world for people to be saying “hell no!” It’s wrong to wreck the climate. It’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.
In addition to the divestment campaign, speakers represented other sustainability initiatives The New School is involved with, including the Real Food Challenge. Students attending the event were able to enjoy food, photo-ops with the school’s mascot, Gnarls the Narwhal, and were challenged to come up with ideas for making The New School more sustainable.
For more information about sustainability initiatives happening at The New School, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org