This evening, Managing Editor Maddie Stearn had the opportunity to interview Lucas Zeppetello, SEAS ’16, one of the Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ) protesters currently inside of Low Library. The interview was somewhat difficult to orchestrate (think Rapunzel), but the results were interesting to say the least. [Note: we usually reserve Late Night Bwog posts for our more obscure content, but this update on CDCJ’s Weekend at Bollinger’s seems well-suited to a Late Night post.]
When I checked in with the CDCJ protesters outside of Low, they had just “escorted” Suzanne Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life, to her cab. The CDCJ members outside were letting their comrades inside the building know that they had found Goldberg, spoken to her, and seen her off. I say “found” because the CDCJ members inside the Rotunda were unsure if she had left the building and could not locate her for some time.
During her visit to Low, Goldberg distributed letters to each of the 9 students conducting the sit-in. The letters were actually just printed versions of an email she had sent earlier to those same students. She also printed copies of the Rules of Conduct for each person. The irony of the wasted paper was not lost on the CDCJ members.
After Goldberg’s departure, CDCJ members yelled up to one of Low’s windows (which was not actually low to the ground), promising a delivery of pancakes in the morning to their fellow CDCJ-ers inside. The students inside were thankful, and asked only that dairy products not be included (they currently have an excess of dairy, but no refrigeration).
After the protesters outside left to store their signs for the night, Daniella Lapidous facilitated an interview between myself and Lucas Zeppetello. He and I spoke (yelled) to each other through a window roughly 12-feet off the ground and that only opened a few inches. It worked out surprisingly well.
Despite the breakdown in talks between the protesters and administrators, there was no lack of drama inside Low library today. Zeppetello spoke about a particular incident that resulted in the protesters’ expulsion from Prezbo’s office, which they had previously occupied for several hours.
According to Zeppetello, protesters were assured that if they went into Low Rotunda to speak with Peter Cerneka about their next steps, they would be able to go back into the President’s office. However, after the last person left Prezbo’s office, Public Safety immediately locked all doors leading into the office.
A new debate thus ensued over the protesters’ ability to retrieve their belongings still locked in Prezbo’s office. Zeppetello told me that, at first, Public Safety said that officers would retrieve the belongings only if the Spectator reporters did not record the process. Zepetello said that he and the other CDCJ members inside became concerned about the lack of transparency this implied. The CDCJ-ers pushed back against this proposal until Public Safety agreed to allow Spectator record the officers’ retrieval of the protesters’ belongings.
Zeppetello also told me that, upon receiving their belongings in bags from Public Safety, one protester discovered that her computer screen had been damaged (it now has a dead spot in the corner). She is confident that the damage occurred during the transfer.
While the argument over the protesters’ belongings may not be directly tied to CDCJ’s demands, the debate over transparency is certainly relevant to CDCJ’s call for the University to divest from fossil fuels.
After my conversation with Zeppetello, I asked Daniela Lapidous whether the sit-in was purposely timed to coincide with Days on Campus. She said that was definitely the aim. CDCJ believes that prospective students deserve to know about the concerns of current students, including the University’s investments in fossil fuels. This sentiment calls to mind No Red Tape’s infamous protest during last year’s Days on Campus. However, as of now CDCJ’s sit-in appears to be less contentious among students than the No Red Tape protest.
When asked if CDCJ has a timeline for their sit-in, Lapidous said that they are prepared to continue the protest indefinitely. She pointed to examples from other schools, including MIT’s 116-day sit-in for divestment. In that case, CDCJ’s Weekend at Bollinger’s could turn into an Extended Vacation at Bollinger’s.
Photo or Diagram? via Maddie Stearn