Although Barnard College was part of Columbia University, the two institutions maintained separate endowments. As a result, BCD split into Columbia Divest for Climate Justice and Divest Barnard in the Fall of 2014. Next semester, in the Spring of 2015, Divest Barnard formally launched their campaign for Barnard College to divest from fossil fuels.
Before protests against racial discrimination and harassment began at University of Missouri campuses in 2015, tensions had risen for a number of years. For example, on 26 February 2010, two students spread cotton balls on the fields of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center as a racist mockery of enslavement. A lack of substantive administrative action in response to such cases of racial discrimination provoked the ire of the university’s Black students.
New York University students sit-in for NYU to change its Labor Code of Conduct (End Deathtraps Campaign, 2013-2014)
The deadliest disaster in the history of the Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry occurred in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 when a sweatshop, Rana Plaza, collapsed and killed 1,134 people. The day before the collapse an engineer expressed concern over a crack in the building. Unfortunately, the factory remained open to fulfill overdue orders and collapsed when generators restarted after a power blackout.
PT Kizone, an apparel factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, held major contracts with Nike and Adidas. In September of 2010, the factory started to withhold its workers’ severance pay. In January 2011, the factory failed to pay its workers their monthly compensation. At the end of the month, the owner of PT Kizone, Jin Woo Kim, fled to his home country of South Korea. The factory declared bankruptcy and closed on 1 April 2011. PT Kizone fired all its workers, to whom the factory owed $3.4 million in severance compensation.
In 2015, student activists took action against New York University, a prestigious 4-year research university in New York City, United States, to increase the minimum wage of part-time student workers employed by the University. The campaign began on 18 September 2015, when members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) gathered to conduct a sit-in at 726 Broadway inside the office of Beth Haymaker, the director of NYU’s Global Programs. SLAM members organized the sit-in to protest the mistreatment of Niza Mirza, an international student from Pakistan.
At Yale University in New Haven, first year students are assigned to a residential college. These residential colleges function as communities and homes for the students and become an important part of life on campus. One of these colleges was named after John C. Calhoun, a Yale alum and the seventh Vice President of the United States. Calhoun was, however, an ardent defender and proponent of slavery, making the name of the college controversial. With racial tensions rising on campus and around the country, in 2015 student activists revived concerns and called for a name change.
Divest SU – a group of concerned students at Syracuse University (SU) joined by activists at the nearby State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) – started the SU Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding the school administration freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies and fully divest from the industry. This campaign was a part of an international student movement to pressure universities and colleges to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.
The 1960’s saw a surge in activism on college campuses in the United States. One of the fights occurring on college campuses was demands for ethnic studies programs and the admission of more students of color. Brooklyn College students joined this fight in 1969.
In 2014, Brown University, a private research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, enrolled nearly 9,000 students and employed over 1,500 workers, more than a hundred of whom worked in the school’s libraries. The United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island (USAW-RI) is the workers union that represented nearly half of these library workers in addition to the school’s dining employees, parking officers, service responders, and mailroom drivers.
In January of 2009, subcontractors of the multinational sports apparel giant, Nike, forcibly shut down two of their major factories, Vision Tex and Hugger, in the Honduras. This left more than 1,800 laborers unemployed and without their legally entitled severance payments. The Workers Rights Consortium, an independent labor auditing organization, reported these concerns to over 100 universities in order to generate awareness of these issues, resulting in the formation of the nationwide student campaign, “Just Pay It.”
Brown University, a private Ivy League research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, enrolls nearly 9,000 students and employs over 1,500 workers, over a hundred of which are employed in the school’s libraries. The 2007-2010 collective bargaining agreement between the university and the United Service and Allied Workers Rhode Island (USAW-RI) Library Unit was officially set to conclude on 30 September 2010.
In December of 2013 at The University of Oregon, a group of students founded Divest UO, to persuade the University of Oregon Foundation (the Board of Trustees) to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Over the next two and a half years, Divest UO employed multiple tactics including a mock wedding, numerous sit-ins, and several teach-ins to achieve their goal.
In October of 2014, two students at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Benjamin Hermerding, president of the Young Democrats, and Nate Levin, member of DivestUMW, requested an informal meeting with UMW administration to discuss the school’s investment portfolio. The open question-and-answer session focused primarily on the 5-year plan released by UMW’s Strategic Planning Task Force, which prioritized fiscally competitive investments.
Divest UMass – a group of concerned students – started the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding divestment by the UMass Foundation from fossil fuel companies and promoting reinvestment of funds into projects that supported “social justice, equality, and sustainability.” This cross-campus campaign was a part of a multi-school, national student movement to pressure administrations at various universities and colleges to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
In 2008, students at Brown University’s Student Labor Alliance, a group of about 15-20 members, began a campaign to persuade their university to halt further investment in HEI Hotels Resorts. HEI, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, is one of the largest hotel management companies in the US and manages hotels such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Westin.
Paul Robeson High School opened in Brooklyn, New York, 1984, as a replacement for the closed Alexander Hamilton High School. The school board’s vision for the new Robeson High School focused primarily on decreasing the dropout rate. To ensure this, the board replaced most of the Hamilton teachers with new ones and created a new application process for students. At first, Robeson did see an increase in the graduation rate, earning it recognition in The New York Times. However, in 2004, the graduation rate began to slowly decrease.
On 22 September 2014, almost 300 students, led by the Colgate University Association of Critical Collegians (ACC), a student-led organization fighting to create a culture of inclusivity at Colgate, University, staged a 100-hour campus sit-in in front of the school’s admissions building to protest what one observer described as the discriminatory “treatment of minority students on campus and the university’s lack of diversity.” The sit-in was sparked by bigoted comments made on the anonymous social media app Yik-Yak.
In the summer of 2012, the American fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A became the focus of an anti same-sex marriage controversy when the restaurant’s owners made public comments in support of traditional marriage. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Truett Cathy, a self-described evangelical Christian, admitted to the Baptist Press he was “guilty as charged” in his support of marriage exclusively between a man and a woman. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.
Garfield High School teachers in Seattle, Washington boycott Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, 2012-2013
Standardized testing in the United States dates back to the early 1900s, when the military issued standardized tests of intelligence to potential candidates for the armed services. In the 1970s, public school students began taking “high stakes” tests, in which their scores affected school district funding and the students’ ability to move on to the next grade. The original purpose of these tests was to hold school districts accountable by providing a standard measure of academic comparison across students and school districts.
University of Hawaii Students, Faculty and Staff Successfully Campaign for Fossil Fuel Divestment, (2013-2015)
In the fall of 2013, University of Hawaii graduate student and oceanography major Michelle Tigchelaar launched a fossil fuel divestment campaign after witnessing the devastation that climate change was bring to Hawaii’s famed coral reefs. Initially, the campaign was organized by members of the University’s Graduate Student Organization. The campaign launched in September 2013 with a movie screening 350.org’s movie Do the Math. The campaign lost traction in its first year after several members of the Graduate Student Organization graduated in the at the end of the fall semester.
Texas has consistently ranked poorly among other states with regard to education. In 2010, Texas ranked dead last in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas and ranked very low in spending per student in public schools, a problem that became exacerbated in 2011. During the Great Recession in 2007, Texas was able to avoid the housing industry meltdown and soaring unemployment rates that plagued the rest of the United States due to its booming oil and gas industries.
In 2013, about ninety-seven percent of the publishing climate scientists agreed that climate change was occurring, and it was due to human activities. If people continued at the same rate of carbon dioxide emission, they risked permanently changing the planet’s climate and triggering irreversible increases in temperature. If the planet was to remain with levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide deemed safe by climate experts, four-fifths of known fossil fuel reserves could not be used and needed to be left in the ground.
The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) was founded at the University of Oregon in December 1975 as a union to represent the interests of graduate students employed by the University. In 2014, during an era of weaker unions, the University hired an outside law firm to negotiate its labor relations, though in it's 39 years of existence, the GTFF had never engaged in a strike to negotiate a labor relations dispute.
Divest UMaine formed in December, 2012 at the University of Maine by co-founders Brooke Lyons-Justus, Connor Scott, and Catherine Fletcher. Sparked by a growing disapproval of fossil fuels in the United States along with increased public awareness of global warming, UMaine students, staff, faculty, and alumni formed Divest UMaine and aimed to convince the University of Maine System to freeze assets invested in top 200 fossil fuel companies and to “reinvest in a sustainable, socially responsible alternatives.”