Divest UMass thank participants, celebrates Meehan’s statement

By Stuart Foster

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts system President Marty Meehan guaranteed the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign that a vote on total divestment from fossil fuel companies would be on the Board of Trustees agenda at its June 15 meeting, according to Divest UMass organizer Sarah Jacqz.

At the final Divest UMass rally of the semester Jacqz, a sophomore BDIC major, said Meehan confirmed to members of the campaign in a meeting held earlier in the day that the issue would be voted on at both the Board of Trustees meeting and a meeting of the UMass Foundation to be held no later than one week after the former meeting.

“President Meehan wants to make UMass the first public university system to completely divest from fossil fuels,” Jacqz said to the roughly 120 who attended the 6 p.m. rally.

Kristie Herman, one of the organizers of Divest UMass and a psychology student, thanked those listening to the rally for their participation in the sit-ins and support of the campaign.

“We have won in so many ways,” Herman said. “We have won in the eyes of the administration and we have won in our eyes.”

Herman said that, while satisfied by the commitment of the Board of Trustees vote, Divest UMass needs to continue working to continue their work, and that she wants to see the UMass system divest from prisons as well as fossil fuel companies.

“We need to keep fighting and now we know we can do it,” she said.

Josh Odam, a junior studying political science and economics who is the UMass student trustee-elect, said he would push to ensure full divestment from fossil fuels is enacted in his new position.

“I really want to take a moment, all of us, to understand the magnitude of this situation,” Odam said. “We are this close from being the first public university to divest.”

Lena Fletcher, a faculty member in the UMass Department of Environmental Conservation, also spoke at the rally, and said the Divest UMass rallies spurred a new volume of conversation about climate change on the UMass campus.

Fletcher encouraged the students involved in Divest UMass to continue fighting against climate change, which Fletcher said would require a massive degree of effort throughout the globe.

“When you look directly at this issue, you can’t not care,” she said.

Susan Theberge, the co-founder of the western Massachusetts advocacy groups Climate Action Now, spoke at the rally, praising the students who participated in the actions of Divest UMass over the past two weeks.

Theberge evoked the cancellation of the Kinder Morgan pipeline yesterday, which would have run through western Massachusetts, and said activists were helping to prevent the effects of climate change.

“The only way we’re going to survive with a livable planet is for us all to work with each other,” Theberge said.

After the rally, Jacqz said Meehan personally expressed a strong statement of support for divesting UMass from fossil fuel companies and that Meehan had acknowledged the work done by supporters of the campaign.

Jacqz said that Divest UMass will now seek to ensure that a vote on divestment is on the Board of Trustees and UMass Foundation meeting agendas in June.

“Right now we’re going to focus on making sure those votes do happen and that divestment moves forward,” she said.

The rally on Thursday brought to an end two weeks of action from Divest UMass which saw sit-ins at the Whitmore Administration Building, multiple rallies and the arrests of 34 people.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.