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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Student group plans action on campus for divestment campaign

Students are planning a protest against fossil fuel investment outside of President Tom Rochon’s office for 11 a.m. Friday.

Students who are a part of Divest IC, the Environmental Leadership Action Network’s campaign, will hold a banner outside of the president’s office for an hour and send representatives to speak to Rochon.

The protest is meant to convince Ithaca College administrators to divest from “socially and environmentally irresponsible companies.” The protest is the result of an email exchange between ELAN and campus administrators who had differing opinions of when they should next meet.

They asked the college to divest from 16 fossil fuel companies, known as the” Sordid Sixteen” in the national movement for college divestment campaigns, by the end of 2013 and complete a written agreement that the college will end investments in these companies by 2015. After an action outside of the board of trustees meeting Oct. 10, where ELAN members held signs directly asking board members to help the group, executive board members met with Rochon, Nancy Pringle, general counsel and secretary to the board, and Tom Grape, chairman of the board. The students outlined their requests during the meeting.

On Oct. 11, senior Ren Ostry, president of ELAN, sent an email to Rochon, Pringle and Grape asking for a meeting the week of Nov. 12. Nine days later, Rochon replied with an email which, in part, stated the organization’s plan was still preliminary and conversations with him would not be held until an agenda was clarified.

After Ostry replied to the email and further described their plan, Pringle replied, two weeks later, asking that they and the students wait for a meeting until after the board reconvenes in February.

Beyond divestment in the “Sordid Sixteen,” ELAN’s plan includes the establishment of a new policy for socially responsible investment to be regulated and enforced through a task force to be made up of students, faculty, staff and board members.

ELAN students are holding Friday’s protest because they feel that they are not being heard, junior Benjamin Knowles, who is participating in the protest, said. He said the administration needs to pay more attention to the campaign.

“The administration — that being President Rochon, Chairman of the Board Grape, and partly Vice President Pringle — have brushed us aside and not taken us seriously,” Knowles said. “They have pegged us as unorganized which we absolutely are not. We are demanding the sort of cooperation that they promised us and to escalate our involvement. We need to show them that we’re not just a group of kids that don’t know what they’re doing.”

The group wants the action to garner more attention. Junior Rebecca Billings, a member of ELAN’s executive board, said ELAN’s purpose in the action is to make their voices heard.

“As a result of [the] action, I hope that President Rochon and the administration realize that we are a very determined, capable and serious coalition of students who will not be stopped by the subversive tactics that they are using to try to illegitimatize and trivialize us,” Billings said.

The group also plans to launch a petition over Thanksgiving break for parents who want to get involved, and it is currently developing a series of short, informational videos to further publicize its campaign.

Ostry said the recent repeal of the heavily criticized media policy was an inspiration.

“When students get loud, the administration has to listen,” Ostry said. “And we’re going to get loud again.”

Rochon and Pringle could not be reached for comment.