WASHINGTON – The Yale College Council, the student government body representing Yale undergraduates, is calling on Yale to cancel all holdings in Puerto Rico’s debt and divest from the fossil fuel industry, after a unanimous vote on January 25th to become a member of the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition.
Following the historic demonstration at the annual Harvard-Yale Game last November, this announcement signals a new wave of popular support among students who want their wealthy institutions to support climate justice and renewable energy, rather than investing in the oil and gas companies responsible for the climate crisis and the hedge funds exploiting the communities first affected by storms and rising seas.
“This is a historic moment for our University,” said Kahlil Greene ‘21, president of the Yale College Council. “Student governments rarely stand side-by-side with activist movements. But now, the YCC has joined the fight against harmful investment practices and complicity in the climate crisis.”
In 2013, the Yale College Council held a referendum in which more than half of all undergraduate students voted, and 83% of those who voted supported fossil fuel divestment. This week’s YCC Senate vote comes just days after student body presidents of the Big Ten universities unanimously passed a resolution calling on their schools to divest from fossil fuels. The Association of Big Ten Students represents more than 500,000 students and 5.7 million alumni. Last fall, the University of California schools divested their $80 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry in response to years of escalating pressure from students.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico remains in a state of emergency after multiple earthquakes hit the island, taking out power for millions of residents. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, Yale’s 5th largest fund manager Baupost sued Puerto Rico in an attempt to force the island to repay its debt before spending any money on recovery. While Yale makes huge profits from debt that has been declared unpayable, Puerto Rico has been forced to close 300 schools and slash its public university budget in half.
“We have never been closer to winning, and the stakes have never been higher,” said Rachel Calcott ‘22, an organizer with the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition. “This is how change happens, at Yale and in the world at large: through nonviolent disruptive action, supported by countless others leveraging their positions and resources in whatever way they can.”
“This vote is immensely important because it sends a message to administrators that elected members of the student body are unanimously in support of endowment justice,” said YCC Senator Abey Philip ‘22. “The YCC, with its new commitment, will be opening doors and pushing for the coalition’s agenda in boardrooms and to administrators that the EJC has previously been denied access to.”