Nebraska students inspired by Harvard-Yale climate protesters who rushed field, delayed game

After last year's protest against fossil fuel investments at the Harvard-Yale football game, students at the University of Nebraska were inspired to do something similar.

While students in Nebraska ultimately decided not to do an on-field protest, they still decided to push their college to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Students in Nebraska are demanding that their schools divest from oil, coal, and gas companies after being inspired by the protest they saw at a Harvard-Yale football game in 2019.

Kat Woerner, a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, alongside fellow classmates, decided to meet and talk about enacting similar tactics to Harvard and Yale at their school, according to a Star Herald article.


In fall 2019, students from Harvard and Yale interrupted the rivalry football game to protest their universities’ fossil fuel investments, forcing the event to be delayed. More than one year later, students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were inspired to organize similar protests, but decided to scrap the idea due to the enthusiasm surrounding Husker football games. Woerner stated last week that they didn’t want to jeopardize their safety, also stating that “we’re not going to back off...because we’re already behind.”  

[RELATED: VIDEO: Harvard v. Yale game DELAYED after climate protesters storm field] 

The growing climate change concern from college students has sparked petitions and protests with the end goal of complete fossil fuel divestment. There are now more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide with open petitions to go “fossil-free.” 

 Students within the University of Nebraska system have also circulated a petition for divestment, which states that “the University of Nebraska system, including all four campuses (UNL, UNK, UNO, and UNMC), currently has a total of $91.3 million invested in the fossil fuel industry.”

”The University of Nebraska has a moral and fiduciary responsibility to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry as soon as possible,” the petition states.


Doane University in Crete, Nebraska and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska have also joined these efforts and recently announced that they will divest from fossil fuels within the next 10 years and switch to investing in renewable energy.

Creighton University students and priests marched for divestment on campus in February 2020, carrying signs with slogans such as “climate change is not a game, it’s our future.”

Woerner and three fellow classmates saw an opportunity to speak to their school about their concerns at a Board of Regents meeting in December 2020.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter told the regents in the December meeting that “doing nothing is not an option.” In response to the students speaking to the regents, Carter said: “We’re listening and we’re actively engaged in the issue,” according to the news outlet.

Carter also announced plans to produce a yearly report on NU investments that will include naming a chief sustainability officer to preside over environmental and social concerns for investment decisions.         


The Board of Regents controls about $330 million of the NU Foundation’s $1.7 billion endowment, Carter stated, and the NU Foundation controls the rest.  A spokeswoman for the University of Nebraska Foundation, Dorothy Endacott, said that less than 4 percent of the foundation’s investments are in fossil fuel companies.


Some students were not satisfied with president Carter’s response, however. 

Zee Elmer, a junior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha who also spoke in front of the regents, stated to The Star-Herald that Carter was “being careful with how to address it,” but that she understands there is no quick fix for this issue.


In 2015, a UCLA consultant and faculty member, Bradford Cornell wrote a 20-page paper entitled “The Divestment Penalty.” 

He wrote about the specific costs associated with Harvard, Yale, MIT, Columbia, and NYU completely divesting from companies related to fossil fuels. 

“The losses are not insignificant - exceeding $100 million per year for Havard the university with the largest endowment,” wrote Cornell. 

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Nebraska for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article: Abby Streetman