About 130 students gathered in the lobby of College Hall on Thursday for a mass sit-in at 6 p.m. in the hopes that the large crowd would make it difficult for administrators to issue citations, following an incident Wednesday night when 13 members of Fossil Free Penn were allegedly “written up” for refusing to leave the building after closing.
Despite the size of the group, student protesters were told to sign their names on a piece of paper handed out by the Office of Student Affairs to document that they had broken University rules, since they refused to leave the building after its closing hours at 6 p.m. One of the DP reporters covering the event was also told to sign.
On Tuesday and Wednesday night, a group of students slept in the lobby of College Hall and said they also incurred these citations for “.”
The group left promptly at 7 p.m., leaving behind a document stating the group’s demands and a promise to return with mass mobilization for University divestment from the fossil fuel industry in September if the demands are not met.
The protest on Thursday marks a shift in the group’s strategy from having the constant presence of a smaller group of people in College Hall to a larger crowd showing support for the cause. Over the past few days, Fossil Free Penn recorded a total of over 200 people joining the sit-in. The group estimated that of the 130 students at the Thursday protest, 69 stayed after closing and signed the paper from OSA.
After meeting with administrators today, sit-in coordinator and College sophomore Zach Rissman said it became clear the University was “unwilling” to cooperate or recognize the goals of the group.
“Basically the administrators kept saying over and over again that while we sit here no progress will ever be made,” Rissman said. “That’s because of I guess mental blocks on the administration’s part of just like not being able to kind of overcome this small hump that we are sitting in and not really being able to look past that at what we’re actually trying to achieve.”
David Zhao, College sophomore and member of Fossil Free Penn, said he felt administrators used the sit-in as an excuse to avoid discussions with the group.
“They used [the sit-in] as a justification to shut down negotiations, essentially saying ‘well now you’re in bad standing because you’ve incurred these citations and we’re not really gonna talk to you,’” Zhao said.
Rissman felt that given the administrative demands, continuing the sit-in would not be effective.
“We realized that the administration is not going to talk to us and that, while we were physically here, there would be absolutely zero progress made,” Rissman said. “We kind of felt that we were at this point where we could end this sit in today or we could stay for another three weeks.”
He added that he hopes the move will give them an advantage in the long-run.
“We kind of decided that maybe ending the sit-in today would be the best option because we could have this leverage of them understanding that we’re willing to come right back if they don’t stay accountable.”