Penn students stage sit in over fossil fuel investments

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University of Pennsylvania students from the club Fossil Free Penn begin sit-in to demand the school divest any fossil fuel holdings from the endowment on Monday, March 27, 2017.

This story was updated on March 29 to include comment from the university.

About 30 University of Pennsylvania students are staging a sit-in Monday to demand the college divest its endowment of fossil fuel holdings.

The students from Fossil Free Penn, a club that began after the People's Climate March in New York City in 2014, want the school to immediately drop holdings of companies involved in coal or tar sands extractions as well as establish a commitment for divesting from all fossil fuel corporations within six months, the group said.

"We are sitting in and standing strong," said Megan Kyne, 19, of Pittsburgh, one of the protesters at College Hall.

In a statement, the university said they met with the students on Tuesday to discuss other ways to reduce the school's carbon footprint. 

"We are in agreement with them on the importance of this issue.  We simply disagree on strategy: they are demanding that Penn divest, and the Trustees have already determined that fossil fuel does not meet the University’s criteria for divestment," stated Amanda Mott, spokesperson.

The students brought sleeping bags and intend to stay as long as needed to see their demands are met and are prepared to risk disciplinary action, the group said in a statement.

On March 17, Swarthmore College students staged a similar action. Five of the participants now face possible sanctions.

Zachary Rissman, 20, sophomore from, Summitt. N.J. said the University of Pennsylvania group has met with three administrators.

"They cannot answer us at this time and they will send the message along," Rissman said. Both Penn police and Philadelphia police have visited the lobby where the students are located, he said.

The protesters say they  will not disrupt anything of importance and "will respect those who are going about their day," said Rissman.

Climate change affects people more than anything else, Kyne said.

The students want the administration to realize the university carries an additional responsibility because President Trump, who has said he believes the current policies on climate change impede U.S. business growth, is an alumni of the university's Wharton School.

"It is profoundly important to do all we can at this university to make sure it acts as a leader among it's peer institutions," said Kyne.