Don’t Suspend Students for Protesting Fossil Fuels

Target: Columbia President Lee Bollinger

Goal: Protect student protesters who want Columbia to divest from fossil fuels.

Seven students at Columbia University were recently threatened with suspension for holding a sit-in outside the university president’s office, demanding that the university freeze all its investments in fossil fuel companies. According to Gothamist, the students want the university to completely divest from fossil fuel companies by the year 2020. Their sit-in has been going on for almost a week.

Since the students began the sit-in, President Lee Bollinger has been working out of office, the library in the same building as the president’s office has been shut down, and all events that were scheduled to take place in that library have been moved or cancelled. Suzanne Goldberg, the University’s Executive Vice President of Student Life, sent an email to the protesters saying that they would be charged with one violation for every event that is moved or cancelled because of their sit-in, and that they would likely be suspended because of these violations.

One of the student organizers countered that shutting down the entire building because seven students are sitting outside the president’s office is a blatant overreaction, and that the administration is only moving events so that they have reason to punish the protesters. The administration also has refused to discuss fossil fuel divestment with the protesters despite the fact that many Columbia faculty also want the university to divest.

These student protesters are exercising their right to free assembly in order to protect the environment. Sign the petition below to tell Columbia to stop threatening these students with suspension and to listen to their demands.


Dear President Bollinger,

A Columbia vice president recently threatened to suspend seven Columbia students who are staging a sit-in to demand your university divest from fossil fuel companies. The vice president also said the president of Columbia “will not meet with an organization whose members are in active violation of University rules.” The administration’s threats and steadfast refusal to consider the demands of these student protestors are unacceptable.

These students are exercising their right to free assembly in order to call attention to the damage their university is doing to the environment. I am sure you are aware that one of the primary causes of climate change is burning too many fossil fuels, and if Columbia continues its investment in fossil fuel companies, it perpetuates the problem of climate change.

These students have staged a non-violent protest for a worthy cause, and the administration refuses to listen to their demands despite the fact that 30 Columbia faculty members also made the same demands of the university just a month ago. I urge you to stop threatening these students with suspension and come to the table to consider their demands.

Every person on the planet has a responsibility to protect the environment for future generations, and you have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference by divesting from fossil fuel companies. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity.


[You Name Here]

Photo credit: AlMare

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  1. Brian Meegan says:

    Students occupying an office for this amount of time is wrong. They deserve to be punished, if that is what the guidelines of the university dictate.

  2. Lisa Allred Lisa Zarafonetis says:

    Signed & Shared.

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