Students ‘sit in’ for environment
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Friday, 19 April 2013 09:02
A small but committed group of environmentally conscious students flooded the BGSU President's Office with phone calls earlier this week, and today plans to flood the office with a sit-in.
|Madison Thomas stands at a table during Eco Fest at BGSU to gather support for a 100% clean energy campus initiative. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
The group called Environmental Action Group is renewing its call for BGSU President Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey to make a commitment of using 100 percent clean energy on campus by 2020. The group held a rally last month with about 40 attending, then submitted a petition to Mazey with more than 2,700 signatures.
They met with Mazey, made their demands, and were disappointed with the result, according to Josh Chamberland, president of the organization.
"She's basically choosing a route of inaction," Chamberland said of the university president.
Mazey told the students that the university was making efforts to transition to clean energy - including signing a climate commitment with other colleges across the nation.
But reliance on wind, solar and geothermal energy by 2020 was not realistic, she said.
So the group launched a "call-in," asking students at BGSU and across the country to phone Mazey's office and repeat the request for clean energy. During the first three days, more than 300 calls were placed to the university president's office.
On the first day of the "call-in," a BGSU police officer was dispatched to the Student Union Oval, where the group had set up a table. According to Chamberland, the officer "threatened writing us a ticket for harassment."
But Dave Kielmeyer, spokesman for BGSU, said the officer made no threats. Instead, the officer had a "conversation with the group" and noted that the vast majority of the calls coming into the president's office were coming from one number of a phone in the union oval.
"He didn't say 'I'm going to charge you with telephone harassment,'" Kielmeyer said. He did, however, question the credibility of the "call-in" since so many calls came from one phone.
Kielmeyer said the phone calls aren't being ignored. "The president's office is tallying the number of calls." However, he also questioned the credibility of the callers. "They are all reading from the same script."
The group plans to step up efforts today by holding a sit-in at Mazey's office.
"We're going to keep a presence in her office the entire day," Chamberland said. "We're going to be asking her to make a commitment."
Chamberland said 15 to 20 students plan to participate throughout the day, "If asked to leave, we will politely say, 'No.'"
When the president's office closes at the end of the work day, Chamberland said the protesters will leave.
Kielmeyer said the university administration has been responsive to the environmental group. Mazey and other university leaders have met with the students three times, he said.
"We've had a number of meetings with the group," he said. "We're obviously interested in hearing their concerns."
Those meetings, however, are not likely to continue.
"At this point, it's no longer productive to have conversations with the group," he said.
Kielmeyer also said the university is committed to clean energy changes.
"We are reducing our carbon footprint and being environmentally friendly," he said.
Last October, Mazey signed the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment along with many university presidents across the nation. The agreement commits BGSU to becoming "carbon neutral" by a date that has not yet been determined.
BGSU is also looking at other ways to reduce its carbon footprint. The short-term goals of the energy agreement signed by Mazey call for the university to reduce waste immediately by examining how to recycle more and use landfills less. All new buildings will qualify for energy and environmental design rankings. New appliances must have energy star ratings. And expansion of BGSU bus transportation will be studied.
The university has three years to come up with a plan for carbon neutrality. While that may not mean the 100 percent use of clean energy, it will seek a balance.
Kielmeyer also noted BGSU recently was included in The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges. The guide states that BGSU "has established itself as a university sustainability leader."