After months of preparation, Fossil Free AU wrapped up an incredible week of action last Friday. While administrators refused students the opportunity to present the case for divestment to the full Board of Trustees, we managed to get our message to the Board in other ways.
Fossil Free AU has spent much of the fall semester responding to the questions and concerns posed by the Board in May. While it was clear that the Board did not intend for their questions to actually be answered, Fossil Free AU used the May memo as a way to propel the conversation on divestment forward, while at the same time engaging large portions of the campus community. Countless hours of research and preparation produced three public fora, the last of which was held last Wednesday. These meetings have been attended by students, professors, and administrators, and have generated productive discussions on the finer points of fossil fuel divestment.
After the final forum, the focus of the campaign turned to the Board meetings on Thursday and Friday. Our friends in student government brought the demands of Fossil Free AU to Finance and Campus Life committee meetings on Thursday, once again stressing the broad support divestment has from students. That evening, President Kerwin and Chairmen Sine hosted an open forum to hear concerns from the campus community. While administrators had restructured the format to only allow questions on divestment during the first half of the meeting, the event was overwhelmingly attended by Fossil Free AU members, who asked pointed and strategic questions. It was obvious that President Kerwin or Chairman Sine would not make any commitments or be caught off-guard during this forum, but our goal was to demonstrate our power to them and other administrators in the room. As they skipped the usual post-event glad-handing and chit chat, it was clear that we had succeeded in this goal.
Friday morning began bright and early with the Board of Trustees breakfast. Some Fossil Free AU members managed to gain invitations, and spent their time inside assessing the opinions of Trustees with which we rarely interact. Others were outside to greet Trustees with copies of our summarized response to the May memo.
Once the Trustees were all inside, our group got ready for the culminating action of the week. Over sixty students rallied on the quad before marching to the base of Butler pavilion, where the Board was meeting in the top-floor conference room. Using fishing line and bunches of balloons, students raised signs reading “AU DIVEST” up to the level of the boardroom. This interrupted the Board meeting as Trustees came to the window to see students demanding fossil fuel divestment.
This week of action managed to do what no singular event could do: put pressure on the Board, energize the campaign, and reinvigorate the campus discussion on divestment. The devotion, passion, and creativity of our friends and supporters was on full display, and has taken this campaign to new “heights”.