Op/Ed: Walk out and walk forward (towards a Fossil Free AU)

Eighteen months ago, the Fossil Free AU campaign kicked off on AU’s campus as part of a nation-wide movement. Since then, the campaign has worked tirelessly with both the student body and University administrators to accomplish one goal: a commitment from AU to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry within five years.

Last spring, months of work culminated in a referendum to divest from fossil fuels passing with an overwhelming 79 percent of student support. This past November, the Board of Trustees formed an Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing in response to the campaign. Our coalition, now more than 30 student organizations strong, has met with both this committee and President Neil Kerwin in the past few months. These milestones, while significant, are not enough, and we must continue pressuring the administration to act.

On Tuesday, April 22, at 3:40 p.m., we plan to walk out of our classes, rally on the quad and march to the Board of Trustees open forum. There, we will demand that the Board of Trustees finally put fossil fuel divestment to a vote at their meeting in May. By turning out hundreds of students to the forum, we will show the Board that we are not indifferent to their decisions—that they will have to answer to the students if they ignore those of us who voted in favor of divestment over a year ago.

The Fossil Free AU campaign is an exemplification of the success and power of AU as an institution of education and change. We plan to walk out not as an act of malice towards any professor or course, but as a testament to them and what they have taught us. There is no doubt that a movement this powerful and articulate could not have formed had it not been for the amazing professors who inform and enable us to be effective agents of change. It is because of what we have learned during our time at American that we know we must take a stand.

And that is what the divestment tactic is all about: raising our collective voice as AU in protest of the fossil fuel industry. By walking out, we demonstrate that the students of this University will not sit complacently in the face of climate change and that the Board of Trustees should not either.

We love AU, and know that it can continue to be the institution for change that it prides itself on being. We walk out not with a sense of bitterness or defeat but instead full of purpose and hope. Hope that the Board of Trustees will make the right decision come May, and purpose to continue the fight for a just and livable future. So on April 22nd, at 3:40 p.m., we invite all students, professors, and staff members to stand up and join us. Walk out with us and towards a better AU.

Audrey Irvine-Broque is a sophomore in the School of International Service.

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