Fossil Fuel Free UConn held a walkout and attended the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees meeting yesterday to demonstrate support for the release of a sustainability action plan and the UConn Foundation’s divestment in fossil fuel industries.
Over 30 students attended the event. The students met outside of the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education and walked to the Wilbur Cross Building to attend the Board of Trustees meeting. Four students spoke to the board on behalf of Fossil Fuel Free UConn.
Julia Stout, a fifth-semester political science and human rights double major, shared why she chose to attend the walkout.
“I’m here today because it’s essential that big universities like UConn not only set an example for other universities, but live up to their promises, especially because they advertise themselves as a human rights-focused university,” Stout said.
Monet Paredes, a seventh-semester environmental studies and political science double major, explained why she thought activism by students was important.
“It’s especially important on campus because as students we have a responsibility to hold the school accountable, and we can’t showcase that unless we come out to events like this,” Paredes said.
At the board meeting, Lilly Adamo, a seventh-semester environmental science and political science major, opened the meeting’s public session by advocating for a full transparent sustainability action plan.
“Right now is the opportunity to fully realize our mission,” Adamo said. “We recognize that there needs to be a collective effort, that we need the board’s support to realize these goals. As concerned and passionate students, we need to see the board supports President Maric’s and students’ goals of carbon neutrality by 2030 and zero carbon by 2040.”
Colin Rosadino, a second-year law student, then spoke about financial and ethical reasons to withdraw funds both directly and indirectly supporting fossil fuels. He asked the board to call on the UConn Foundation to disclose and remove their indirect exposure to fossil fuel companies.
“How can a university claim to be respecting educational purpose or any other essential values of morality, social awareness or race consciousness if it cannot even ascertain where its money is invested, if it has no authority over the companies its own money is invested in?” Rosadino asked the board.
Paredes read a letter to the board outlining Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s goals for the school, including decarbonization, divestment in fossil fuel-based companies and full disclosure of the UConn Foundation’s investments.
The students representing Fossil Fuel Free UConn then gathered behind Dylan Steer, a fifth-semester environmental studies and political science major and the president of EcoHusky, as he delivered a final speech asking the board to join the coalitions and organizations that were supporting Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s goals.
Daniel Toscano, the chairman of the board, thanked students for attending the meeting and informed the room of a sustainability town hall that is to be held on Nov. 2, where attendees can learn more about the university’s sustainable initiatives.
Later in the meeting, board member Philip E. Rubin proposed adding a statement to the board’s agenda in support of Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s goals. The board voted to add the statement to the agenda without any opposition.
When discussing the statement, Toscano again thanked the students for creating awareness for sustainability. He also said that the goals would be challenging to achieve, but that the board would do everything in their power to reach them.
“It’s just a statement. We’ve not accomplished anything,” Toscano said. “But we’ve put a marker down that this is the path we’re on, and we need to do everything to support leadership and resourcing these initiatives.”
After the Board of Trustees meeting, Adam Opin, a seventh-semester political science major and a member of Fossil Fuel Free UConn, spoke about Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s feelings after the meeting.
“I think I speak for the group when I say we’re hopefully optimistic, but this doesn’t mean we demobilize, it means we mobilize further to secure the gains that we’ve gotten and to get this hard plan, which the Board of Trustees said they wanted, and now we’re really in control of our own destiny at this point,” Opin said.
Stout emphasized that the group was not holding this event to be disrespectful or cause trouble.
“We’re doing this because we genuinely care about UConn,” Stout said. “We know they can do better, and we know they have to do better, so we are doing this for the sake of everyone here at UConn, from students to the top of the administration because we all share this earth.”