Fossil Free UC Davis demonstrators hold overnight sit-in at Mrak Hall

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

Organization demands UC’s $2.5 billion divestment from fossil fuel industries

Students gathered at the Memorial Union (MU) Quad on May 2 to join in Fossil Free UC Davis’ movement, “UC Direct Action: Divest from Fossil Fuels.” Following the march, students began a sit-in at Mrak Hall, which they plan to continue until their demand is met — that UC Regent Richard Sherman divests from the UC’s 2.5 billion dollar stake in companies that support fossil fuels.

Currently, the UC system has close to three billion dollars invested in companies that heavily rely on fossil fuels for their industry.

The Fossil Free UC Davis demonstrators began their protest at the MU flagpole by holding signs that read, “Time is running out,” and chanting phrases such as, “Hey Sherman, hey you, we deserve a future too.” The activists then made a lap around the Quad before marching to Mrak Hall.

“We’re going to sit-in until [the UC Regents] agree to meet with us, because the University of California has $2.5 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry and when we’re claiming to be green and sustainable, it’s super hypocritical,” said Evan Steele, a fourth-year environmental policy and planning major. “With the current federal administration being climate deniers, it’s really crucial that we as a scientific community and as a community that invested in our future that we acknowledge that climate change is real and that we act upon it. We are trying to get the University of California Regents and Regent Sherman who is in charge of investments to listen to the voices of their students.”  

The sit-in at Mrak Hall began the afternoon of Tuesday, May 2, and according to the group’s Facebook page, its protest was arranged with facilities management. Fossil Free UC Davis made an agreement to only occupy the space during business hours. In return, the students would be allowed to continue their sit-in each day.

On May 3, the Fossil Free UC Davis affiliated students arrived at Mrak Hall at 8:00 am. According to Sarah Risher, a third-year environmental policy and planning major, the organization had managed to contact members of the UC Davis administration, such as Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter and various other administrators, who said that they would assist in helping the protesters speak to Sherman. Sherman later said that he could not meet with the protesters.

“We will continue this sit-in for however long is necessary,” Risher said via e-mail. “We are waiting to hear back about Sherman’s schedule. We are trying to coordinate a time that works best with all involved parties.”

During the evening on May 3, the group’s Facebook page reported that the protestors were being asked by administration to leave the building and were taking names and student ID numbers of those remaining in Mrak Hall after the group was shown the campus’ policy on civil disobedience. A number of students decided to spend the night in camps set up both inside and outside of the Mrak Hall lobby, despite facing possible Student Judicial Affairs action and police action.

Students involved expressed their views that this protest was vital, as climate change is a growing global threat.

“If you‘re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” said Therese Burns, a second-year evolution, ecology and biodiversity major. “People don’t have an excuse not to care about this because you eat food, you live on this planet, you breathe the oxygen, chances are you’ve been in a car. You have no reason not to take even a few steps in the right direction because it affects you and everyone else. Being complacent isn’t helping anyone and being active is the only way to be.”

The UC Davis Fossil Free student chapter’s protest is the latest in a series of movements put on by other UC chapters, all aiming to encourage UC Regents to support green industry and divest money from indirectly or directly supporting fossil fuels. UC Berkeley held a sit-in at Sproul Hall on April 24, and UC Santa Cruz had its own “Divest from Fossil Fuels” protest on April 20.

The Fossil Free UC Davis Facebook page also offers the phone numbers of Sherman, the Chief of Investments Office and the Regents administrators. Student activists encourage others to call these numbers to increase dialogue between the campus community and UC Regents regarding the UC’s fossil fuel investments.

 

Written by: Lindsay Floyd  — campus@theaggie.org