Students take divestment march to administrative buildings

Students take divestment march to administrative buildings

November 17, 2017

About 35 students and several faculty shouted “take a stand and divest, stand with science, truth and justice,” outside the administrative buildings on Wednesday, after marching across campus to demonstrate support for divesting university stakes in fossil fuels.

Demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as “Ron Liebowitz, what will your #climatelegacy be?” and “Climate Justice = Social Justice” as they walked across campus, banging on a variety of instruments. The march started at the Rabb steps and crossed through the Shapiro Campus Center before ending outside the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center.

Students marched from Rabb Steps to Bernstein Marcus to advocate for divestment.

The demonstration, which called on the Board of Trustees and President Liebowitz to act on fossil fuel divestment, echoed demonstrations occurring at seven other campuses on Wednesday. Schools as nearby as Boston University and as far as University of California Santa Cruz also hosted demonstrations, according to a post on the Divest BU Facebook page.

Outside the administrative offices the marchers gave speeches and a poetry and musical performance.

“I want to believe that the members of our board of trustees are motivated by the same passion for science, truth and justice and for our students’ future,” said Professor Sabine von Mering (ENVS/GRALL/WMGS).

Von Mering drew parallels to a moment in 1986 when Brandeis University sold shares of stocks in South Africa-related companies to protest apartheid in the country.

One student who gave a speech, Jordan Mudd ’20, argued that given the Trump administration’s denial of climate change, it is more urgent now than ever for universities to lead the movement away from fossil fuels.

“It is absolutely clear that our federal government is not making decisions and not taking the action that we need,” Mudd said. “We cannot wait till 2020. We cannot wait for a new administration to come in and make changes. That’s three years from now and that three years means a difference in lives. We’re talking about human lives.”

Mudd pointed to natural disasters, including the hurricanes which ravaged North America this summer, as evidence that climate change has already begun to affect humans. According to a study cited in the Washington Post, the extreme rains that hit Texas during Hurricane Harvey this summer were made more likely by climate change and events of extreme flooding will become more frequent as the earth continues to warm.

Speakers and signs carried by the demonstrators claimed that climate change affects minority populations to a larger extent than white populations.

“Brandeis University has a moral obligation to divest its funds of fossil fuel profits,” Charlie Chester, a faculty member who marched with the group, told The Hoot. “Brandeis has to set an example for other institutions around the country and around the world.” Chester is a lecturer in Environmental Studies at Brandeis.

On Oct. 20, a majority of the faculty voted in support of fossil fuel divestment during a monthly faculty meeting. At least three faculty members attended the march.

Their resolution says that while “recognizing the leadership role Brandeis University can play in modeling civic action and also the responsibility of the Trustees to protect and grow endowment funds,” the Board of Trustees should take action at “the fastest pace that is consistent with our contractual commitments.” The resolution also praises Leibowitz’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accords, supporting Brandeis its efforts to “take forceful action” in attaining the goals of the Agreement.

BCJ has circulated a petition supporting divestment, that now has over 500 signatures, which the marchers left at President Liebowitz’s office.

During the rally outside the administrative offices, Mudd noted that Liebowitz was not inside because he was meeting off-campus with the Board of Trustees. The group booed in agreement as Mudd noted that the Board of Trustees was meeting “far away” from the campus which will be affected by their decisions.

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