UPDATE: Two UMW students and one Fredericksburg resident were arrested on March for refusing to leave an administrative building at the culmination of a 21-day sit-in for fossil fuel divestment! See more on the story here.
Last month, hundreds of students from across the state marched on University of Mary Washington to support our call for divestment. Since then, students in Virginia have tripled the number of campaigns on their campuses calling for divestment.
The UMW board rejected their proposal to move forward on divestment -- but the students aren't taking no for an answer. Instead, 12 days ago, we launched a sit-in to ask the UMW Board of Visitors #whoseside are you on?
Numerous school leaders, including BOV Rector Holly Cuellar, have said they agree we must combat climate change but disagree on means to do so. Because of the urgency of our fight, we need to use all the tools we have to fight for climate justice.
UMW students know that this is a historic time in the divestment movement. Swarthmore launched a sit-in two weeks ago on their campus as a strategic escalation in the 5th year of their campaign for divestment from fossil fuels. This escalation kicked off a series of coordinated actions across the nation with the Divestment Student Network, and a pledge to escalate with nonviolent direct action from hundreds of other students.
By saying “no” to divestment, schools have chosen to turn their backs on our generation, and side with a rogue industry whose business plan is incompatible with a just and stable world. UMW students have exhausted all other options, and know that nonviolent direct action is the only way to force Rector Cuellar and the BOV back to the negotiation table.
As we near the two-week mark of the sit-in, we’re beginning to see tangible progress. We need the support of our campus community more than ever. We’ll be focusing on drawing in support from alumni and faculty this week to further isolate the BOV and administration. As alumni,here’s six ways you can support and stand with us:
1. Contact President Hurley and/or Rector Holly Cuellar:
Express your concern about UMWs investments in the Fossil Fuel industry and the way that students voices are being neglected by those who govern the institution.
Rector Cuellar-- Phone: (619) 537-0056
President Hurley-- Phone: (540) 654-1301
2. Donate to the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund:
Consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, a seventeen-school donor-advised fund invested in fossil free funds. The University of Mary Washington will receive all donated funds and any additional investment returns when our endowment becomes fossil free. This provides monetary pressure for the university to divest, as well as an avenue for those who care about this institution to contribute to the school in a responsible way.
3. Take the pledge to hold donations until we divest:
This pledge calls on the governing body of Mary Washington to show leadership on climate change by divesting its endowment from the top 200 companies involved in the exploration, ownership, or extraction of fossil fuels. It states, “We pledge to withhold donations until a commitment to divestment is made.”
3. Follow our social media accounts and spread our content:
4. Join Us!
Many alumni have joined the 148 people who’ve sat with us to show solidarity. An alumni presence continuously motivates us and sends a strong message to administrators who work in the building.
More and more campuses are joining the growing wave of divestment, and there has never been a better time for students to join the fight for the world we want to live in.
Will you join us?
Rabib Hasan, Co-Chair of DivestUMW, Class of 2016
Sarah Kinzer, Co-Chair of DivestUMW, Class of 2018
Zakaria Kronemer, Founder of DivestUMW, Class of 2015
P.S. For a live update from actions on the ground, check out this page from the folks at Fossil Free collecting stories and media from #whoseside actions around the country!