Divest UMass makes strides at Board of Trustees meeting

By Lizzy Keery

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

As springtime rolls around, the campaign against the fossil fuel industry has been reinitiated once again by Divest UMass.

For divest campaigns across the nation, this time of year escalates these campaigns and helps implement action. On April 8, Divest UMass participated in one of its biggest events of the spring. Over 30 students and faculty in support climate justice attended the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees meeting in Worcester. There, the board demanded that UMass divest its $560 million endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

Clad in the campaign’s signature colors of black and orange, the group stood at the entryway, creating two defined paths inside: justice and injustice. Chants such as, “Pollution and exploitation, are caused by corporations, just stop it, get off it, our school is not for profit,” were sung.

In the middle stood one student holding a sign that posed the question, “Whose side are you on?”

Two students from the club, Kristie Herman and Allison Rigney, had the opportunity to address the Board of Directors. They asked that the Board make a public statement on divestment, in addition to an official vote at this fall’s Board meeting. Chairman of the Board Victor Woolridge agreed to provide a statement by June, and to meet privately with Divest UMass.

As trustees entered, they were forced to either walk down the path of justice or injustice. Students cheered as Woolridge chose to walk down the justice pathway. He additionally expressed intent for an official vote.

This meeting had been a long-awaited one for the student organization. Arrangements have been in place since December when Divest UMass was not given a clear answer from the Board of Trustees about a vote on divestment.

The campaign highlights not only the environmental hazards that result from fossil fuel industries, but the fact that these industries perpetuate racism, classism and sexism. It is working to build a strong network among students, staff, faculty and alumni at UMass.

Additionally, Divest UMass hopes to create working relationships with the other UMass campuses and the Five College Consortium.

“(We) will continue to peacefully escalate our campaign,” member Carolyn Black said. “We will be back, and with even more student, alumni and faculty power.”

Lizzy Keery can be reached at [email protected]