Protesters march into President McRobbie's Office
Ben Brabson, a professor of physics at IU and a climate change scientist, petitioned IU to distance itself from the fossil fuel industry at a protest that concluded at Showalter Fountain.Mary Katherine Wildeman
“Support Clean Energy,” “Indiana For Clean Air,” “We are all concerned for the world” and “Stop Global Warming, Green Peace” were a few of the requests written on the protesters’ signs and clothing.
The protest was organized by Reinvest IU, an organization seeking to persuade the IU Foundation to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in more sustainable forms of energy.
Students, alumni, faculty, concerned community members and a band marched into Bryan Hall, up a flight of stairs and into McRobbie’s office in a uniform motion.
The protesters crammed into his office, overflowing into the hallway.
McRobbie was unavailable, so the letter was delivered to Kelly Kish, deputy chief of staff to McRobbie. The crowd fell silent and looked on intently as the letter was read out loud before it was handed to Kish.
“The letter is just pointing out that climate change is important to not only the lives of future students but students here right now,” said Ross E. Martinie Eiler, co-coordinator of Reinvest IU. “You can’t in good conscience say we’re trying to be a leader in dealing with the reality of climate change if we continue to pump all this money into corporations that are responsible for climate change.”
After receiving the letter, Kish declined to comment about the protest.
“We’ll just receive it, and we appreciate the students taking the time to come over,” she said.
Some students said they felt empowered after delivering the letter to IU’s administration.
“I think it is powerful to have a large crowd come in and support this cause,” junior Melissa Bergsneider Serrano said. “We, the students, can have an impact on an issue like climate change and encourage the administration to take leadership on this issue.”
After delivering the letter to Kish, the protesters departed Bryan Hall and marched around campus before stopping at Showalter Fountain.
Bystanders marveled as the crowd of protesters marched to the tune of one electric guitar, two saxophones and two drums.
Sophomore Arielle Moir said the IU Foundation investing in fossil fuels is discouraging.
“Investing in dirty energy like coal, oil and natural gas studies have shown that that’s a harbinger of climate change,” Moir said. “That affects all people, all creatures, including students here at IU not only in the present tense but future generations.”
In addition to the IU-Bloomington students present, there was a coterie of IU-Purdue University Indianapolis students carrying a placard reading “IUPUI Supports a Cleaner Future.”
“We’re seeking to start a committee for climate change in Indianapolis,” IUPUI senior Emma Fletcher said.
Fletcher also said she hopes to get the attention of IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz and garner his support.
At Showalter Fountain, physics professor Ben Brabson delivered a speech highlighting the progress and shortcomings of IU.
“On one hand, IU is building energy efficient buildings and promoting research in climate,” Brabson said. “On the other hand, IU is part owner of many of the fossil fuel producing and burning industries.”
Eiler said he hopes IU’s administration will initiate dialogue with the IU Foundation about divesting in fossil fuels.
“We think it’s important to make moral investments with the University’s money, and those moral investments include not jeopardizing the health of the planet,” he said.
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