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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Divestment protests continue with Old Main sit-in

Students campaign to urge Western to divest from fossil fuels.

Dozens of students camped outside of Western President Bruce Shepard’s office to urge the Western Foundation to divest.

The students began at noon on Wednesday, June 3, and stayed until noon on Thursday, June 4. They brought laptops, pizzas, study materials, pillows and blankets to pass the time.

During the operational hours at Old Main, students lined the sides of the hallways, giving people who worked in the building the ability to move freely.

The sit-in came a week after a small group from the Students for Renewable Energy club delivered a petition for Western’s administration to divest from fossil fuels to Shepard’s office and the Western Foundation.

Junior and next year’s Students for Renewable Energy president Julianna Fischer said the students came to make their voices heard.

“We’re hoping to spread awareness and put pressure on the [Western] Foundation and the administration,” she said. “[And to get them to] understand that even during our busiest week of the quarter, this is a priority for us.”

Last year, an attempt was made to get the Western Foundation to divest funds, but the Foundation voted against it. Fischer said it was frustrating to see this happen, but the issue continues to be an important one for students.

“I think people have been frustrated this year, so we’ve gotten a bit more aggressive with our tactics,” she said. “They say people who are insane are the people who think that you can keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.”

While Fischer thinks the foundation will vote in favor of divestment this summer, junior Shelby Kremenich said it is still important to spread the message.

“I think it’s just  important to get the word out and to make sure that people know that this doesn’t really align with Western’s values and beliefs to invest in such environmentally unfriendly companies,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know that we do invest all of these companies, let alone that we invest $2 million in the fossil fuel industry.”

Around 10 p.m. on Wednesday several pizzas were delivered to the students in Old Main by Casey Hayden, the Associated Students coordinator of student activities. He said Shepard had ordered them for the students.

“We’ve had a lot of pizza today, but you can never have too much pizza,” Fischer said.

Paul Cocke, Western’s Office of Communications and Marketing director, said the students were direct with the administration about the sit in.

“The Students for Renewable Energy were very open about their intentions, and the university administration saw no compelling reason not to allow them to stage their protest in Old Main as long as health and safety concerns were addressed, which they have been,” he said.

Cocke said Western’s administration is always willing to dialogue with student groups, and this was no exception to that.



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