Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Divest hosts ‘sit-outs’ outside Whitmore Administration Building

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

The UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign held a sit-out Tuesday afternoon outside the Whitmore Administration Building where it sought to transition from the sit-ins of last week to a more open and outreach-focused strategy.

Last week, hundreds of students participated in a sit-in in Whitmore to show of support for UMass Divest. Some stayed indoors after the building closed, which led to 34 total arrests for trespassing. Fifteen people were arrested on April 12 and 19 were arrested the following night.

“We decided to start a sit-out and instead of being silent inside a building, have everyone come outside and continue to occupy space but in a way that allows us to have more freedom to build a community and momentum,” said Mica Reel, a sophomore anthropology and journalism major and UMass Divest spokesperson.

UMass Divest seeks a public statement from UMass President Marty Meehan and Chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, Victor Woolridge for complete divestment from fossil fuels in the next five years. Although UMass released a statement saying that Meehan and Woolridge support the campaign’s goals, UMass Divest believes its demands have only been partially fulfilled, said Varshini Prakash, regional networks coordinator for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network during an open discussion with other UMass Divest members outside Whitmore Tuesday.

Last semester, the UMass Foundation, which handles the University system’s endowment, announced its divestment from coal companies. Students have demanded a complete divestment of the system’s endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fuel companies since 2013.

UMass Divest wants an explicit and publically announced plan of action for complete divestment that it believes will ensure more accountability. The group has stated it will continue to hold rallies and sit-outs until that has become a reality, Prakash, a UMass alum, said.

“Last week, we did sit-ins and had a ton of support, more than we expected … (but) when we’re inside we can’t build a community, we can’t to talk to one another or talk about climate justice and why divestment is so important,” Reel said.

UMass Divest has received endorsements from more than 10 academic departments and student groups on campus including the Student Government Association. About 500 students participated in the sit-ins last week as well, including alumni and graduate students, Prakash said.

“We had fewer people than in the past … but this is just the first day and we have a lot more people now who are heavily involved rather than just coming in and coming out for the sit-in … people are taking on roles and we’re building the movement,” Reel said.

UMass Divest is planning another rally Wednesday at 3 p.m. in front of Whitmore that Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party, will be attending to show her support according to Reel.

Although Meehan will be on campus Wednesday to attend a play on student activism at the Fine Arts Center, UMass Divest has also invited Meehan to attend another sit-out Thursday to show support for divestment from fossil fuels. UMass Divest has been encouraging its members to continuously call the President’s office to invite him to the sit-out, with about 30 calls sent Tuesday alone, Prakash said.

Reel said that UMass Divest has been transitioning into giving students more opportunities to contribute to the movement.

“Instead of just putting pressure on the board, we want to help people find their stake in the movement and learn about one another and climate justice,” Reel said.

Tristan Tay can be reached at [email protected].

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    Samuel SitarApr 21, 2016 at 9:54 am

    sit outs and strikes are legal. they are free speech.