Skip to content
View Featured Image

Columbia Divest For Climate Justice Protesters Plan Sit-In At Low Library

Above Photo: YASMINE AKKI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER. CDCJ members outside of President Lee Bollinger’s office in Low Library.

Sixteen members of Columbia Divest for Climate Justice are conducting an indefinite sit-in inside Low Library to demand that the University divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The group—which has been campaigning for this goal since its founding in fall 2012—may be in potential violation of the Rules of Conduct.

While CDCJ had a meeting with Bollinger scheduled for Apr. 29, the group is demanding for Bollinger to meet with them immediately and issue a statement in support of divesting from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

Communicating through the group’s adviser, Associate Director of Leadership & Civic Engagement Pete Cerneka, Bollinger said he would be open to meeting with them at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

“We are literally staying until President Bollinger agrees to meet and negotiate and meet our demands,” CDCJ organizer Iliana Salazar-Dodge, CC ’16, said. “If that means sleeping over for the weekend, it’s going to happen.”

After 5 p.m., the protesters were advised that Low Library was officially closed, and as a result, the protests may be in violation of the rules. Multiple representatives from Undergraduate Student Life took protesters’ IDs and then returned them to the students.

“Entering or remaining in a University facility without authorization at a time after the facility has been declared closed by the University” is considered a serious violation of the University Rules of Conduct. Respondents found responsible for a serious violation of the rules are subject to the full range of sanctions, including suspension, expulsion, and revocation of degree.

“The result depends on President Bollinger,” Salazar-Dodge said. “It’s up to him to decide whether he wants to arrest or otherwise punish the students he’s supposed to represent and fight for. It’s either that, or he decides to stand up and lead in the face of climate change,”

Earlier on Thursday afternoon, a crowd of about 40 CDCJ members—including many of those still inside Low—entered the building at about 4 p.m., while the Barnard Columbia Solidarity Network held a rally on Low Steps to show support for the group.

BCSN, a network of at least seven student groups formed in December, is demanding that the University meet a list of six demands, including fossil fuel divestment.

Some students sitting on Low Steps heckled the protestors while they chanted and read out their statements.

A group of students who were playing music in front of the protest refused a MAD organizer’s request to turn the music down later got into a shouting match with the same organizer. Other students booed when SJP members read their statement of solidarity.

Protesters then marched to Casa Italiana, where Bollinger was moderating an event with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Executive Vice President for University Life and rules administrator Suzanne Goldberg met protestors outside and advised them that their chanting could be heard from inside the event.

“You’re being heard upstairs where Justice Breyer is in the middle of giving a talk. I wanted you to be aware of that,” Goldberg said. “It’s not President Bollinger who is speaking right now, it’s a justice of the United States Supreme Court.”

Goldberg also reminded the protesters of her position as rules administrator, which tasks her with the ability to accept and investigate complaints and file charges against those believed to have violated the rules.

“You all know I am the rules administrator. I am not a delegate, I think you’re all quite aware of the rules that prohibit disrupting a University event,” she said. “I’m not in the position at the moment to advise you at all, I don’t function as a delegate.”

Goldberg was often interrupted by protesters, who chanted “whose side are you on, PrezBo,” and “whose side are you on, Justice.” She gave no comment on the protest to Spectator.

After Goldberg spoke to protesters, one CDCJ organizer told another organizer that she didn’t think some of the protesters fully understood the consequences of breaking the rules, and made the decision to return to Low Steps.

Some protesters then marched into Low Library to join CDCJ protesters after ensuring all members knew this to be potential grounds for Rules of Conduct violation and arrest.

Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.