Part 3: Solidarity for Sustainability

Alex Kerensky makes a sign for the Stand of Solidarity.
Alex Kerensky makes a sign for the Stand of Solidarity.

The high point of Amstadt and Hughes’ demonstration was their ‘stand of solidarity’, which they used to bring the issue to the Board’s attention.

While the trustees ate dinner in the Benes rooms Thursday night, the students gathered in a circle outside the window and held signs, first sitting and then standing to be more visible.

“I think (the direct protest) was by far the best event we planned.”

– Ellen Hughes

She added that the event “brought the subject of sustainability to the forefront of their minds” and that this was the ultimate goal.

“(T)hey could not ignore us so our voices were heard but it was also respectful,” Amstadt said. “Many trustee members came out to talk to us so it also opened up the doors of communication between students and trustees.”

Their signs contained messages such as ‘Sustain OWU’, ‘Let’s not fall behind’ and ‘62 percent of prospective students consider sustainability.’

The protesters are met by President Rock Jones and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Michael Long.
The protesters are met by President Rock Jones and 2013-2014 Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Michael Long.

It wasn’t long into the stand before members of the board came out to talk to the students, voicing respect for their efforts and listening to the concerns.

“I wanted to commend you, actually, for your activism and the manner in which you’re doing it,” Chairperson of the Board Michael Long told them when he came out to address them.

“You’ve gotten the trustees’ attention, you’ve gotten my attention. We understand your cause and you’ve got some empathy on the Board for your cause. And Rock Jones is working on these issues, as you probably already know.”

– Michael Long

Daniel Glaser, a trustee-at-large, joined the protesters for a photo. He said that his daughter, a senior in high school, was very interested in sustainability and he hoped seeing the event would persuade her to apply.

Glaser said that concerns over sustainability are taking place worldwide, so he wasn’t surprised by the demonstration.

“I actually find it encouraging, I certainly believe student activism is a positive rather than a negative,” he said. “…At the end of the day, do people have to be engaged with taking steps to make a more sustainable planet? Absolutely, and we have to do that not just as a school but in our home lives as well, you know, so ultimately I think it’s an issue for every citizen of the world.”

Trustee Chloe Williams, ‘11 and a representative of the Alumni Association, said she thought having a forum like this was “the coolest thing about OWU.”

“Students are so engaged and standing up for something they believe in,” she said.

Williams said that the university had taken a lot of important steps on sustainability recently and that was to be commended, but didn’t have a comment on she thought the protesters would consider the loss of the position a step back, as she was still learning about the issue on campus.

Freshman Haven Wallace, one of the protesters taking part in the stand of solidarity, said she was “definitely surprised” by the administration and trustees’ response.

“A lot of members were very supportive of our efforts and even came out to shake our hands and thank us for what we were doing. I assumed there would be more tension and resistance.”

– Haven Wallace

Senior Ashley Taylor, a protester, treasurer of Environmental and Wildlife Club and Tree House resident, said she thought the reactions were “super positive.”

“Protests don’t have to be violent or obnoxious to have our message be heard,” she said.

Freshman Reizo Prakash said the trustees were open to discussion and asked their own questions.

“(T)hey ensured that everyone knew what they were talking about and actually wanted it,” he said in an email.

Some protesters had initially worried the stand of solidarity would be seen as disrespectful by the trustees, but Chairperson Long assured them it was not.

“You’re not being disrespectful,” he told them. “You’re students and you’re trying to advocate a cause and there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.”

Next: ‘Tent City’


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