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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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DivestUMW interrupts latest BOV meeting

DivestUMW interrupts latest BOV meeting


DivestUMW held its latest demonstration at the Board of Visitors meeting on Friday in order to get the BOV to commit to discussing divestment at its next meeting in April. Students United joined the group, who stood in solidarity with DivestUMW, according to Students United president Noah Goodwin.

DivestUMW spoke for roughly two minutes in the BOV office at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, filling the doorways of the meeting room and lining the hallway outside.

Six students, senior Rabib Hasan, freshman Drew Shannon, freshman Bradley Veerhoff, junior Lexi Robinson, senior Daniel Sheehy and sophomore Noah Goodwin spoke individually, each reading from a section of a statement they had written describing the negative effects of oil or coal-based for-profit companies and DivestUMW’s involvement on campus, each ending with an invitation to Rector Cuellar to evaluate the divestment report the divestment subcommittee of the President’s Council of Sustainability will plan to submit to the board before the expected April meeting.

“We have collected over a thousand student signatures,” said freshman Drew Shannon.

“We have held marches, rallies and a 21 day sit-in to prompt board action. [Rector] Cuellar, we need a vote on fossil fuel divestment.”

DivestUMW entered the BOV meeting as SGA president Hannah Tibbett had been presenting on issues relating to the student government and the student body, including a section on divestment.

According to Tibbett, she did not know the demonstration would take place during the SGA report. However, she has spoken with members of DivestUMW and the BOV with both having made their intentions and plans of action clear.

“SGA’s role in these issues discussed is to act as a liaison between the student body and the Board of Visitors,” Tibbett said. “I’ve met with [DivestUMW] to listen to them and have talked to Rector Cuellar about their concerns.”

Cuellar addressed the DivestUMW members and thanked them for bringing student voices to the meeting, but said it was too early to solidly commit to a decision. “Certainly it is premature at this point to make a decision until we have the report,” Cuellar said, according to the video posted of the demonstration.

After the demonstration, the group formed a circle outside the steps of the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, where DivestUMW member Rabib Hasan gave a brief statement about the meeting and the importance of divestments on protecting communities before the group began chanting.

“If we don’t get it, shut it down,” referencing the commitment to meet in April about divestment.

According to DivestUMW member Sarah Kinzer, the group, along with Students United, plan to get the word out and communicate with the BOV throughout the semester, leading up to the April meeting.

“DivestUMW and Students United plan to continue our mutual support for both of these causes,” Kinzer said. “We will continue to seek and make known all avenues for engagement with the board.”

The next regular BOV meeting is expecting to be held on Thursday, April 14 and Friday, April 15.