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Student-run activist group CU Divest led an unpermitted protest against the university’s fossil fuel investments at the UMC cafeteria seating area on Wednesday.
Separating into three groups in each of the UMC cafeterias, students jumped onto reserved tables with megaphones and hand drums and delivered a scripted speech urging CU to cut its fossil fuel shares. They then exited the UMC to form a line traveling around the building. UMC security and CUPD expressed concern to the students but did not issue any written warnings or citations.
Environmental studies senior Elena Parthemer said that the inspiration behind the protest was the work and actions of Bill McKibben, an author and environmental activist who founded the “Do The Math” tour, a school-to-school national campaign that informs people about the harms of carbon emissions and urges schools to “divest” from fossil fuels.
“The momentum got going with that,” Parthemer said. “CU Divest collected over 2,000 signatures as we reached out to faculty, students, alumni. In last spring’s student election, 66 percent voted for divestment out of the fossil fuel industry.”
Parthemer added that CU Student Government supported the divestment, but the CU Foundation, which is in charge of CU’s endowment, has not met their demands. CU President Bruce Benson stated in March that the school will not be taking steps toward divesting in fossil fuels.
“They weren’t listening to what we wanted, and that’s when we got fired up,” Parthemer said. “We decided it was time for the next step, and we wanted to spread more awareness on campus to louden message to administration.”
PhD chemistry student Skye Rios’ goal for the protest was to shift the administration’s mindset around fossil fuels and to create a space for dialogue and critical thinking.
“I think that protests like this are more effective than simply feeling empathetic and refusing to act,” Rios said. “We will continue to make noise until the administration hears us and responds appropriately.”
Economics senior Quinn Leccese, 21, believes the urgency of the situation warrants CU Divest’s actions.
“We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Sandy,” Leccese said. “We don’t have any time to waste in terms of trying to weaken the fossil fuel industry and the degree of destruction.”
The protest caught the attention of sophomore geography and film major Sydney Murphy, 19, who supports CU Divest’s actions.
“I loved that they brought awareness to a completely relevant topic involving the students here,” Murphy said. “We’re pretty much paying for global warming, and that’s disgusting. The fact that the president of CU, who is supposed to be Mr. Eco-friendly, is ignoring it is wild.”
CU Divest invites students to meet at UMC 327 2 p.m. Friday to plan further action.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Danielle Meltz at Danielle.email@example.com, twitter/justmeltz.
Staff Writer Kelly Ragan and Breaking News Editor Ali Tadayon contributed to this story.