Today is the fifth and seemingly final day of a sit- (and sleep-) in protest of Stanford students advocating that the University (endowment: $21 billion) fully divest from all fossil fuel companies, as it did from coal-mining companies last year under similar pressure. "You are again directed to gather your belongings, clean up the area and leave the Main Quad/Building 10 area Immediately," read a note from Stanford University to "Students Participating in Fossil Free Stanford Fossil Fuel Divestment Protest" dated yesterday with this particular order bolded and underlined. "Further," the letter continued, not bolded but still underlined, "please note that President Hennessy has offered to meet with representatives of Fossil Free Stanford, on the condition that the Fossil Free members are not continuing to act in violation of university policies in regard to the Main Quad."
The San Jose Mercury News writes that every day more than a dozen professors have led "teach ins" for the assembled protestors including a lecture on "The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley," a task undertaken in solidarity with students. Other students, alumni, faculty members, and university employees have delivered food and supplies to the protestors.
Fossil fuel divestment protest singing at Stanford on Day 5. pic.twitter.com/7I6jvq0Wzl— Vignesh Ramachandran (@VigneshR) November 20, 2015
Coal is one thing, students say, but they demand that their school's endowment be likewise purged of all ties to oil and gas company holdings. A letter signed by about 380 Stanford faculty, including former university President Donald Kennedy, Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg, and writer Tobias Wolff, echoes that demand for total divestment.
But President John Hennessy, in agreeing to meet with student leaders, also emphasized that failure to leave the Main Quad would be grounds for "disciplinary review ... and criminal
trespass under California law.
The protest's organizers are Fossil Free Stanford, and, forgive the metaphor, they've fueled hot debate on campus and beyond. Their demands have led alumni to pledge that, if the University fails to cooperate, they'll withhold donations, and some seniors have vowed they'll similarly forego a class gift.
In an op-ed to the Stanford Daily today, students write that
Today, Fossil Free is drawing a close to a powerful week of direct action. Over the course of the last five days, hundreds of people — faculty, staff, students and alumni — have engaged in education and solidarity. Now, we are heading home to spend time with our families.
We are leaving on our own terms, but to the University’s notice, we have this to say:
The Fundamental Standard binds all members of the Stanford community to “show such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens.” As students whose education and ethics are at odds with the position of their administration, this is a matter of morality. We will never apologize for demanding that our administration consider ethics over profits and pay heed to international scientific consensus. It would be a violation of the Fundamental Standard to do so, and it is unquestionably a violation of the Fundamental Standard to threaten students with sanctions for challenging corporate complacency.