University News

Divest Coal holds silent sit-in at U. Hall

The group also read a letter addressed to administrators calling for Corporation transparency

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 8, 2013

On a drizzly afternoon, members of Brown Divest Coal and other students gathered on the Main Green to organize before their sit-in in University Hall.

Members of Brown Divest Coal and other students gathered Thursday in University Hall to read a letter to President Christina Paxson and Corporation members and to stage a silent sit-in.

Students convened on the Main Green at noon to organize before entering University Hall. About 60 students participated in the letter-reading and nearly 20 remained for the sit-in, which lasted two hours.

“Our consideration of divestiture is not over,” said Cameron Johnson ’17 on the steps outside of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center before the group’s sit-in. Though Paxson and administration members “consider the conversation over,” he told the crowd, the students gathering “have come to tell them that our voices will not be silenced.”

Students entered University Hall around 12:25 p.m., and David Katzevich ’16 read a letter composed by Brown Divest Coal members, while other students listened in silence.

“We will continue to champion our arguments for divestment, but today we protest in silence because we feel the administration has silenced the conversation,” he said, reading the letter.

The letter requested greater transparency from the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

The letter presented by Brown Divest Coal asked the Corporation to include at minimum one student, faculty and staff member in its body, make its meeting minutes public, deem the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies a voting body and require Corporation members with conflicts-of-interest to recuse themselves from voting.

ACCRIP recommended in April that the University divest its endowment from 15 of the largest coal companies.

The letter also called for the allowance of community members to propose items for the Corporation’s meeting agenda and the creation of a committee that would vet potential new Corporation members.

After the letter was read, 20 students remained in University Hall and sat holding hands in a circle, with a sign reading “Accountability, Transparency, Community” in the middle of their circle. They remained in silence for two hours.

Three Department of Public Safety Officers arrived at the scene at approximately 12:35 p.m. The officers left 15 minutes later because they told Brown Divest Coal member Rachel Bishop ’13 that they did not “want to give us more publicity,” she said.

Kimberly Roskiewicz, assistant to the President, declined to comment on the actions of the students or the letter and told the Herald that Paxson was unavailable for comment.

Various Brown Divest Coal members also said the divestment movement is now linked with a campus-wide demand that administrators and Corporation members listen to student voices.

“It is bigger than Brown Divest Coal,” Bishop said. “The Corporation does not have adequate representation of the Brown community voice.”


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  1. And replace coal with what? Unicorn farts and good intentions?

    • Maybe unicorn farts. Or you could try the renewable energy sector that is growing several times faster than coal, that doesn’t kill thousands of Americans annually with small particulate pollution, that doesn’t disproportionately harm low-income communities of color, and that in many instances would already be cost-competitive with coal if the externalities were internalized and the price of coal actually reflected the that it is destroying the entire planet.

      Please don’t come in here with these tired critiques: they’re uninformed, and worse, unimaginative.

  2. Tom Bale '63 says:

    I admire the students in Brown Divest Coal. In the face of President Paxson’s and the Corporation’s response to the call to divest they have not caved in. Now they are going after the inadequacy of the Corporation, itself, in its autocratic leadership. Rachel Bishop is on target when she identifies the underlying problem: “The Corporation does not have adequate representation of the Brown community voice.” The Corporation is only fueling more resistance by its undemocratic process. The irony is Brown should be applauding the BDC effort over the last year. The principled leadership they have shown, the intellectual acuity of their arguments for the environment, and their organizing ability are the very characteristics that provide bold evidence that Brown’s educational process is working. Now they have taken their message directly to the seat of power in University Hall with their sit-in. Please listen President Paxson. It’s not too late to realize that these students have something important to teach Brown.
    Also, in a related article by Gabriella Corverse regarding the tendency of the University to fall back on committees she is eloquent. Inadvertently, perhaps, this knee-jerk response is disrespectful to the authentic student voice that Gabriella describes.

  3. look at what a ‘civil’ protest gets you…slaves didn’t negotiate for their freedom on their masters terms…

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