Columbia University opened an investigation Friday to determine whether a small group of anti-fossil fuel student activists broke university rules by disrupting an event with oil giant BP.
The BP event, put on by the Center For Global Energy Policy last Tuesday, discussed several topics related to the energy industry, including topics highlighting the impact an economic slowdown would have on energy demand, as well as how the Paris agreement, forged last December, might impact energy consumption.
Seven members of the anti-fossil fuel group Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ) attended the BP event expressly for the purpose of reading aloud a slew of statements lambasting the mega oil company for engaging in “fossil fuel industry violence,” as well as torturing “labor activists.”
“BP is here to tell us about our outlook on energy, but they refuse to tell us about our outlook on survival. BP profits from climate change and human rights violations,” CDCJ organizer Iliana Salazar-Dodge, can be heard telling the audience at the protest. “BP has blood on its hands. Do you trust them with our futures?”
The Rules of Conduct at the University state “a person is in violation of these rules when such person individually or with a group, incident to a demonstration … briefly interrupts a University function.”
Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, in separate emails to CDCJ organizers Caroline Lee and Amy Wang, explained the investigation was triggered by a complaint.
Goldberg’s investigation will collect interviews and evidence, after which she will determine whether the students violated university rules.
If Goldberg files charges against the students and they accept responsibility, the investigation would move into the sanctioning stage. But if the CDCJ students deny the allegations, then the investigation will move to a hearing in front of the University Judicial Board — a five-person board comprised of faculty, students and administrators.
Members of the anti-sexual assault activist group No Red Tape received similar letters from Columbia administrators last February. The letter warned the No Red Tape activists might have broken the school’s rules by interrupting an admissions session.
The Barnard Student Government Association (SGA) issued a statement Monday in support of fossil fuel divestment at Columbia. The SGA statement comes after 96 percent of students voiced support for divestment during an SGA-hosted, college-wide referendum.
“Because of this overwhelming majority, SGA supports fossil fuel divestment and encourages Barnard College to take swift and responsible action to remove all investments in fossil fuel companies from its endowment,” the statement read.
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