[UPDATED]: DivestNU ends its occupation of Centennial Common after staging die-in


UPDATED at 6:40 p.m.

By Elise Harmon, managing editor

Members of DivestNU ended their occupation of Centennial Common around 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

After staging a mock oil spill and die-in during Prospective Students Day, the group announced on its Facebook page that members had left Centennial 13 days after pitching tents in protest of Northeastern’s investment in fossil fuel companies.

The decision to stop the occupation was made because members of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) agreed to meet with DivestNU leaders on Tuesday, according to the announcement. The SLT is composed of top university administrators that advise President Joseph E. Aoun.  

“At [Prospective Students Day], Northeastern presented itself as a global institution,” the announcement said. “We presented Northeastern’s true global impact: lives lost, communities destroyed, voices ignored. Climate change is violent and so is Northeastern’s refusal to divest. […] This context will ground our meeting with the administration on Tuesday and inform our escalation moving forward.”

Originally posted on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1:15 p.m.

By Julia Preszler, news correspondent

Members of DivestNU staged a mock oil spill and die-in at Snell Quad and around Centennial Common on Saturday morning during Northeastern’s Prospective Students Day as part of their continued demonstrations calling on the university to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

“Today we wanted to make sure that all the students and parents that are planning on coming to Northeastern are aware of this issue here,” said DivestNU member Alissa Zimmer, a junior environmental studies and political science major. “And to make our voices heard and, once again, tell the administration this is a community issue.”

The demonstration began at approximately 10 a.m. with DivestNU protesters walking from Centennial Common, the site of their nearly two-week occupation, to Snell Quad, on a day when hundreds of high school students tour the university with their parents to consider applying.

The demonstrators covered the ground on Snell Quad with black tarps, which were meant to represent oil. Approximately 20 protesters laid down on the tarps, an action meant to symbolize their deaths from the oil spill, holding signs that read, “NU profits from climate violence” and “Northeastern: Divest from climate chaos.”

“Today Northeastern will tell you it is one of the greenest campuses in the country. How can that be true with 60 million dollars invested in companies like ExxonMobil,” chanted the protesters, while lying on the tarps.

Two DivestNU members held a homemade banner that read: “Climate change claims five million lives/year.” Four members unfurled a large banner over the edge of the balcony of the Curry Student Center that read, “Stop funding climate change.” 

The group then moved to Centennial Common, where they staged another die-in and  repeated their chants as more high schoolers walked by.

DivestNU is in its 13th day occupying Centennial Common, where they first set up tents on Monday, Oct. 3. The group is calling for Northeastern to divest 60 million dollars of its endowment from fossil fuels and to promise to never again directly invest in the industry.

The university does not currently make direct investments in fossil fuels, but it keeps its endowment in commingled funds, or predetermined portfolios that invest in many different areas, including the energy sector, The News reported last week

Ben Levy, a third-year Ph.D student in sociology, handed out fliers explaining the DivestNU movement to prospective students and their parents.

“I get the sense that maybe 50 percent [of the prospective students] have been neutral or confused, but not interested enough to ask about it,” he said. “Maybe five percent have been hostile, making jokes about how we should buy more Hummers and stuff. But a good 45 percent, which is a good percentage, has been totally for it.”

At one point, a male prospective student gave another DivestNU member who was handing out fliers the middle finger.

Later in the day, DivestNU set up a table in Snell Quad at the activities fair for prospective students. They held a banner reading, “Northeastern profits from climate violence.”

On Friday, DivestNU delivered a letter to the office of Provost James C. Bean in Churchill Hall that called for divestment and was signed by more than 50 faculty members. 

DivestNU has a meeting scheduled with Northeastern’s Senior Leadership Team for Tuesday, Oct. 18.

The group met with Vice President of Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook and members of the administration on Thursday, marking DivestNU’s first meeting with the administration since the beginning of their occupation of Centennial Common.

The News has reached out to the administration for comment. This story will be updated with further developments.

Photo by Julia Preszler

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that DivestNU signs read “NU profits from climate justice,” instead of “NU profits from climate violence.” We regret the error.