Students silently protests for a fossil fuel-free campus

Students attended the Board of Trustees meeting to silently protest the University’s divestment of fossil fuel companies at the Illini Union on Thursday.

The silent protest was held by environmental student organization, UIUC Students for Environmental Concerns, as a part of its project, UIUC Beyond Coal and Fossil Free UIUC.

Members of the organization demanded students and the administration take action to support the climate and community.

As a result of this semester’s student election, almost 75 percent of student voters supported the removal of fossil fuel companies investments from the University’s endowment and the University of Illinois Foundation by 2020.

Over 1,000 institutions have committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, including Yale University and Stanford University. Hosting organizations are looking to ensure that the University follows suit and does its part to support the environment.

AnnaMae Dziallo, senior in ACES and president of UIUC Beyond Coal, gave a speech at the meeting. Dziallo has been president of the RSO since the beginning of the academic school year but said the organization has been fighting this campaign on campus for almost a decade.

Emphasizing the importance of the Board of Trustee members to recognize the election results, Dziallo said ensuring student voices will be heard and the University is acting democratically is crucial.

Dziallo said it has been frustrating working with the administration. When the campaign was first established, the administration asked Fossil Fuel UIUC why it should care about the issue, claiming the students who do care will be gone in four years.

“But we’re not,” Dziallo said. “It’s nine years later, and we’re still here. It’s been frustrating because it’s so compartmentalized and it’s so bureaucratic that it’s hard to ensure that we’re talking to the right people and that they’re taking us seriously.”

Dziallo said the organization passed a resolution in the academic senate composed of mainly faculty members who established a Socially Responsible Investment Committee.

The committee aims to advise the chancellor to divest from coal, but the committee was renamed the “Joint Advisory Committee on Investment, Licensing, and Naming Rights.”

“That’s important because they removed the emphasis on socially responsible investments, and it’s now just a hodgepodge of other things, and socially responsible investment is not a major portion of the committee,” Dziallo said. “I’m on (the committee); it’s not.”

Dziallo added she thinks students need to care about the fossil fuel issue because this global movement began by college students, like the ones on campus.

Bugra Sahin, junior in LAS and Engineering, attended the protest and said every second wasted contributes to ruining and worsening conditions directly affecting our future.

“A lot of people are aware of it, but I think we are complacent and we are usually just trying to probably make the money that we can still, and it’s the conformity of the whole thing that people don’t like change, but we need to make this change or it’s just not going to be. After some point it’s not going to be salvageable at all and we have to act right now to be able to still salvage it,” Sahin said.

Jessie VanDyke, freshman in ACES, protested to support Fossil Free UIUC, show SECS is supported and they care about University investments and actions.

While the University has numerous initiatives to be environmentally friendly, such as the recycling system, VanDyke realized investments were not showing the same.

“It’s important for all of us, but especially for me. I grew up loving nature, and I grew up loving this Earth, and I don’t think that corporate greed or conformity should get in the way of us trying to save our planets, so that’s why I was here,” Sahin said.

The Board of Trustees did not respond in time for publication.

[email protected]