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Fossil Free Penn camp out on College Green on April 20, 2022. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Fossil Free Penn began its ongoing encampment on College Green Tuesday night to call on the University to divest from fossil fuels and support climate justice communities.

The encampment was an unannounced part of the programming for Fossil Free Penn’s Fossil Free Fest. After FFP’s reservation of the space for their “S’mores & Community” event expired, the encampment officially began at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening. FFP members remained on College Green following the event, pitching tents and holding up signs featuring lists of their demands from the University. FFP has not yet publicly announced plans to leave the space. 

Aside from divestment, FFP's demands include Penn's public condemnation of the fossil fuel industry, a restructuring of Penn's Board of Trustees to include the voices of students and members of the West Philadelphia community, and defunding the University's Police Department. 

FFP's campaign coordinator and College sophomore Sarah Sterinbach said that Penn Police, University Life officers, and open expression observers have been present at the encampment at different times.

“We’re here to stay because climate justice and justice for the Philadelphia community should be at the center of campus,” Sterinbach said. 

In an announcement to the Penn community on Nov. 5, 2021, University administrators announced Penn would halt new commitments to private equity vehicles dedicated to investments in fossil fuel production. FFP coordinator and Engineering senior Ari Bortman said that this action "is not [University] divestment in any sense."

"The University can still invest in fossil fuels via mixed funds, which is how they generally allocate their investments," Bortman said. 

Sterinbach also highlighted the $922 million Penn has still invested in fossil fuels. She said she feels that these investments conflict with previous University messaging regarding the importance of combating climate change. FFP's demands also include banning funding for research from fossil fuel companies, as well as banning oil and gas companies from the career fair and job recruitment programming.

This February, FFP launched the “Know Our Demands” campaign, which aims to teach the Penn community about the importance of the divestment movement and environmental justice.

Sterinbach said that an additional goal of the encampment of College Green is to create a space for “radical and imaginative thought" on campus. 

"Activism on Penn's campus can be super isolating, by design," Sterinbach said. “We’re bringing all these people who care about so many intersectional issues to one place and creating a fun community. That’s a big threat to Penn.”

Bortman said he already sees the encampment as a success. 

"Today, we got to speak to hundreds of Penn students, and hundreds more read our signs and literature, bringing climate justice education to the forefront of campus," Bortman wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian on April 20. "We had 28 people camp out last night and have 8 tents up. We're strong. We're growing. We're staying." 

As of the evening of April 21, FFP remains on College Green. 

"FFP is continuously assessing when [it] plan to leave, and will re-assess leaving once [its] demands are met," FFP coordinator and College and Engineering junior Emma Glasser wrote to the DP.