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Fossil Free Penn on their 30th day of encampment on Oct. 16, 2022. Credit: Hannah Shumsky

The Nominations & Elections Committee has become the first branch of Penn Student Government to publicly support Fossil Free Penn’s “right to exercise peaceful open expression” on campus.

In a statement released on Nov. 14, the NEC reiterated its commitment to "misrepresented and underrepresented" student groups as motivation for supporting FFP’s fight for access to interface with University administrators. The NEC wrote that this was one of the reasons for FFP’s appointment to the University Council, a forum that allows student groups to directly interact with University administration, earlier this year. 

The statement read that “although the seat enables them to speak directly to administration during monthly UC meetings, this platform has not ensured that FFP is able to engage in constructive dialogue with decision makers at the University” and that the NEC “supports FFP’s right to peacefully express their demands.”

College senior and NEC Chair Sabria Henry-Hunter told The Daily Pennsylvanian that a committee was formed to create the statement. Membership on the committee was open to any NEC member and contained representatives from FFP and other branches of PSG, such as the Undergraduate Assembly and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education.

Henry-Hunter said she hopes that the statement — which was passed unanimously by the NEC body — will show that students are paying attention to issues on campus and will assist in improving relations between the University and FFP.

“I do think that there’s something unique in that we are student government, and we hold a unique place of privilege in that we have direct access to [University] administration anytime we want it,” Henry-Hunter said. “It's an opportunity to use our privilege to uplift the voices of a group who doesn't have the same privilege of being so favored by [University] administration.”

Wharton sophomore and NEC Vice Chair for Education Hana Le, who also serves as the chair of the PSG Steering committee, conveyed PSG's support for the NEC’s statement in a written statement to the DP. She emphasized the importance of amplifying student voices through PSG’s work and commended the NEC for promoting fairness across campus through their support of FFP. 

“It’s important to PSG Steering that students feel comfortable enough to trust PSG with their concerns with and hopes for their Penn experience,” Le wrote. “All six branches of PSG work to advocate for students through their respective responsibilities, and PSG is proud that the NEC took the initiative to show support to the student organizers in FFP through theirs.”

FFP has organized multiple protests this semester to call on the University to meet its three main demands: a commitment to help preserve the University City Townhomes, full divestment from fossil fuels, and making payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to Philadelphia public schools. The group camped out on College Green for 39 days to bring awareness to their goals and stormed the field during the Homecoming football game in an hour-long protest. At the Homecoming protest, 19 students were arrested and others who participated are facing threats of suspension from student groups due to their involvement. 

In a written statement to the DP, FFP said that they are “proud and honored” to have the support of the NEC and reinforced that their movement is motivated by their “love for the Penn community and the activists within it.”

“Receiving support from such an influential branch of student government helps normalize our movement in the eyes of students who may have originally seen our views as alienating or extreme,” the student organization wrote. “FFP demands are grounded in themes of common humanity that anyone, even the most objective decision-making body on campus, have an obligation to stand in solidarity with.”