Tulane Students Demand Fossil-Fuel Divestment and Minimum Wage as Part of COVID Response

Tulane students at a May 2019 protest / Getty Images
January 4, 2021

Tulane University activists are demanding that the school divest from fossil fuels and establish a $15 minimum wage as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained a copy of a student-authored letter that claims that left-wing policies are the only way to ensure a safe return to campus. Demands include a $15 minimum wage and divestment from fossil fuels. The "Spring 2021 Demands" letter also reiterates previous calls to abolish campus police and give reparations to the descendants of slaves who worked on the plantation that became Tulane's campus.

The letter begins by calling on the university to offer virtual-learning options to students and professors as well as a pass/fail grading option until more vaccines can be distributed. Its signatories argue that "having a low income is a health concern" and that the fossil-fuel industry causes hurricanes, which makes CDC pandemic guidelines more difficult to follow.

"The response to hurricanes—evacuation and sheltering in large groups—is inherently incompatible with the response to COVID-19—staying at home and social distancing," the letter reads. "The fossil fuel industry is directly to blame for the climate change that makes hurricane season worse every year, and it is more urgent than ever for Tulane to divest and stop supporting these companies with its endowment dollars."

Tulane's Black Student Union, one of the letter's signatories, previously submitted a list of demands to administrators in July. That list inspired four others, including one that calls for the abolition of campus police. The university residential assistants also created their own list of demands, claiming they have been "mistreated, undervalued, and overworked" because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rachel Altman, a senior at Tulane, told the Free Beacon that activists would have more success if they didn't bundle reasonable demands with radical ones.

"These ideas don't belong in a plan that was meant to improve upon the school's fall COVID response," Altman said. "I'd like to see a more efficient COVID-19 response too, but it seems to escape these organizers that they'd have more success in convincing Tulane to sign onto this platform if it stayed focused on COVID safety instead of looping in contentious line items."

The letter's signatories flouted the school's social-distancing policy to protest the police and were forced to shut down a protest in September because it ran afoul of the school's restrictions. According to Altman, they ultimately lost credibility with the university administration after they spread "unfounded and dishonest conspiracy theories" about Tulane's COVID response plan on social media.

A spokesman for Tulane University told the Free Beacon that the university shares the goals of the organizers "to provide a safe, equitable, and productive learning environment for all members of our academic community."

Update 01/05/21, 11:00 AM: This story was updated to include a comment from Tulane.