Northwestern has a strong history of ignoring students’ voices. This conversation came up just this past week when over 100 students disrupted the groundbreaking ceremony for a new athletic facility, forcing the administration to listen to concerns and demands about the black student experience at Northwestern. Administrative negligence was the reason students organized a hunger strike to call for the creation of an Asian American Studies minor in 1995, and the reason students staged a 38-hour sit-in at the Bursar’s office in 1968 until the university agreed to create the Black House. Like this history shows, when student demands are ignored, we have no option but to escalate. Student activism has been a key influencer in the legacy of this university, and this week we have the opportunity to make history again.
On Friday, Northwestern’s Board of Trustees — the highest level of administration at the university — will be meeting on campus. The Board of Trustees is the group that makes some of the most important decisions at Northwestern, from determining who will be president of the university to what we will invest our money in. With all the power Trustees have over students’ experiences at Northwestern, one would hope they would value students’ voices. Unfortunately, three years of campaigning have proven to us that is not the case. Like we’ve seen so often at Northwestern, the Trustees are not accountable to the students they supposedly serve.
If the Board of Trustees cared about constituent voices, they would have divested from fossil fuels years ago, when we passed resolutions overwhelmingly supporting divestment in our student and faculty senates and collected signatures from over 2,000 NU community members backing our movement. Last spring, 74 percent of the student body voted in favor of coal divestment in an ASG referendum. Our voices have been unified and clear. So why does the Board of Trustees feign a deaf ear?
Climate change is an issue that every student — and every Trustee — at Northwestern has a personal stake in. The damage being done to people’s lives and the environment at the hands of fossil fuel companies is frightening and morally sickening. From laying pipelines across indigenous lands, to polluting poor and minority neighborhoods with coal plants, to creating climate refugees in developing nations, the fossil fuel industry violates human rights worldwide — and Northwestern supports this injustice by investing in these companies.
We at Fossil Free Northwestern do not accept being ignored by our university’s leaders. At 4:45 this Friday, we will meet at Norris to march on the Board of Trustees meeting being held at the Allen Center, forcing them to listen to their community’s voices and divest from fossil fuels. We invite all members of the Northwestern community to join us.
It’s time that Northwestern begin taking our voices seriously. When Trustees refuse to hear us, we refuse to stand down. That’s why we’re marching this Friday.
Fossil Free Northwestern