On Tuesday afternoon, a group of undergraduates and organizers gathered in Uris Hall to protest Columbia’s recruitment partnership with Citibank and educate students on Citi’s fossil fuel investments.

On Tuesday afternoon, a small group of students congregated inside Uris Hall with homemade cardboard signs bearing the slogans, “Citi funds the climate crisis,” “Citi is shitty,” “Citibank <3 coal”, and “Your investments are killing us.” This protest was a reaction to the Citibank recruitment event taking place inside the building. Organizers claimed it was part of a larger campaign pressuring Citibank to divest from fossil fuel investments. Protestors included members of the Columbia University chapter of the Sunrise Movement, with support from community-based organizations including NY Communities for Change and Extinction Rebellion.

Nieman addresses students waiting in line for the recruitment event.

According to a Bloomberg report from January 2023, Citigroup is among the leading Wall Street banks supporting the expansion of fossil fuel companies despite its membership in the Net Zero Banking Alliance, which aims to build a net-zero economy. Citi lent and underwrote $31 billion to oil, gas, and coal firms with growing operations since April 2021, according to a study by French nonprofit Reclaim Finance.

Skylar Nieman (BC ’24), the primary speaker and organizer, began the rally by remarking on the increased security around Uris Hall, which had barred protestors from outside the Columbia community from entering the building. While a CUID card swipe is always needed to enter Uris, security was tightened in and around the building during the protest, with two campus security guards posted at the doorway asking each student entering the building to display their CUID and individually tap the card scanner. However, it is unclear whether these added security measures were due to either the recruitment event or the protest. 

Nieman then addressed nearby students waiting in line to enter the event, remarking that “You are part of the fight against fossil fuel divestments—be educated about where you place your talents; know your worth.” She made clear that the targets of the protest were Citibank and Columbia University, not student attendees. Responses from students in line to enter the recruitment event were muted, though one student who passed by the protestors leaned into Nieman’s microphone and booed. 

Nieman later added that investments from large banks “go to things that won’t benefit your future.” Addressing any onlookers who might bank with Citi or work for corporations connected to Citi, Nieman stated that these concerns about fossil fuel divestment involved them as well. 

Regarding the rally’s specific focus on Citibank, Nieman remarked that the bank’s CEO had demonstrated openness to listening to the demands of activists, but had not yet taken any action on fossil fuel divestment, which makes Citi an important target for continued pressure.

Nieman then read from a list of statements about Citibank’s fossil fuel investments, which were also posted around Uris Hall and handed out to onlookers. According to these flyers, Citi has stated that it is committed to “Building a Sustainable Future,” yet remains the top American bank financier for coal power and coal mining. They are also the biggest funder of fossil fuel expansion in Africa, and the biggest funder for state-run fossil fuel companies in the Amazon.

The flyers also pointed out that although Columbia has called itself “Aggressively Sustainable,” the University closely partners on recruitment with Citi. The bank was even a top 10 employer for CC, SEAS, GS and Columbia Business School graduates in 2022. The flyer also called for “Big Banks to be the solution,” presumably to the issue of climate change, and provided a link to the 2022 “Banking on Climate Chaos” report.

One protestor, Cameron Jones (CC ’26), pointed out Citibank’s hypocrisy in promoting sustainability when asked about the protest’s motivations. “They’re constantly pushing sustainability,” said Jones, “but they’re one of the largest contributors to fossil fuels.” 

Protesters chanted slogans relating to climate change and Citi’s funding of the climate crisis, including “Corporate greed we must fight/Coal investments are not right!”, “Climate Justice,” and “Stand up, fight back!”

Once the recruitment event began, the protest moved from the Uris lobby to the outside steps and joined around 20 other students and community members. Here, Nieman led some more chants amongst the protesters, before handing the microphone to alumnus Alice Hu (CC ’19), who represented New York Communities for Change. 

Hu stressed Citi’s impact on the Amazon, stating that “the Amazon is being ravished because of Citibank funding.” She ended with a final remark on Citi’s outdated funding of coal: “the science is clear—we need to relegate coal to yesterday—not today or tomorrow.”

Staff Writer Emily Yi and Senior Staff Writer Meeral Tashfeen contributed to the reporting of this article.

Photos of the protest via Meeral Tashfeen