“Divestment spring” is what anti-fossil fuel protesters are calling their “escalated” forays into climate activism. Students at Yale, Harvard, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Tufts University, University of Mary Washington, Tulane University, and Swarthmore College have left off writing petitions and instead staged sit-ins to demand their alma maters divest from fossil fuels.
Syracuse University announced its plans to divest on March 31, following a student sit-in in November and escalated action in the spring. The Mary Washington students held the president’s office for three weeks; Swarthmore Mountain Justice activists (students, alumni, and professors) filled a hallway in the finance office for more than four.
The nod to the “Arab Spring” is intentional. Divestment activists see their cause as cut from the same cloth as the Middle Eastern push for democracy. Fossil-fuel companies, per sustainability uber-activist Bill McKibben, have bought themselves the American political system, and hence are “Public Enemy Number 1.” College trustees, according to the students, are perhaps Public Enemy Number 2. Trustees enjoy “privileged” positions of power over students, and almost all of them have declined to cater to the schedules and the demands of activists who want de-oiled endowments now. That makes them, in the parlance of social-justice warriors, entrenchers of systematic student oppression.