Why I Won’t Donate to Northeastern

NEU_Ell_HallThe beginning of my final semester at Northeastern has started much the same as that of many of my peers. As I prepare to graduate I’m thinking about all I’ve learned here, and it fills me with excitement for what lies ahead. Despite the air of uncertainty around my future plans, one thing is very certain: as an alumna of Northeastern University (NU), I will not be donating to my alma mater.

Do not think that I am ungrateful:  I’ve certainly benefitted from the generosity of past alumni and recognize this institution would not be where it is today without them. Rather, I’m disappointed by Northeastern’s failure to lead. For two years, students, faculty and other members of the NU community have called for the divestment of our endowment from the fossil fuel industry. There has been a robust and energetic campaign on campus, yet the leadership at NU fails to embrace this movement.

As the administration stalls all attempts to divest our endowment, other universities, organizations and state pension funds are demonstrating real leadership. Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a push to divest the city’s five pension funds – totalling $160 million – from the coal industry. This closely follows the California legislature’s decision to divest its public employee pension funds – totalling $476 billion – from the coal industry.

Since the DivestNU campaign began in spring of 2013, 40 universities, 130 religious groups, 54 governments, 148 nonprofits and 63 pension funds have divested. Northeastern is quickly losing its opportunity to be seen as a leader in addressing climate change, while universities such as Stanford University and the University of Hawaii are receiving positive attention for their recent commitments to divest.

DivestNU proposed the issue of divestment during the spring 2014 referendum process, during which 75 percent of respondents voted in favor of divesting NU’s assets from the fossil fuel industry. Despite the clear interest our community has in divestment, the administration failed to issue an official response to those results until 13 months later – in April of 2015.

If the university is at all interested in the issue of divestment, or responding to a clear demand by students, it fails to show it. Time and time again, student voices on campus have been suppressed. Until there is more empowerment of student activists, until student perspectives are integrated into all aspects of university planning and, most especially, until NU divests from the fossil fuel industry, I will not be donating any money.

To the students reading this – join me and sign the DivestNU pledge to not donate to our university until we divest from fossil fuels. To the faculty and community members reading this – sign our faculty petition and become engaged with those already working on this campaign. To the leadership of NU reading this – please reevaluate the direction this university is headed and understand that the future of Northeastern looks a lot less impressive when the voices of its students are ignored.

– Mara

Originally published as a letter to the editor in the 10/22/15 Issue of the Huntington News. View online.