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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Sunrise Movement hub demonstrates to demand professors reject funding from fossil fuel executives

Students gathered in SIS and on the quad

American University’s Sunrise Movement hub gathered in the School of International Service and on the quad Dec. 1 to demand professors refuse research grants and funding from fossil fuel and oil executives. 

According to the hub, roughly 100 students gathered to demand professors no longer accept this funding, as club members say this can shape research narratives and ultimately sway public perception of these companies. 

The hub’s campaigns director, John Paul Mejia, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, addressed the crowd gathering on the quad, stating this was “only the beginning” of a greater movement. 

Professor Malini Ranganathan, a professor of environmental politics, spoke in SIS, advocating for truthful and honest research. Event organizers also led a banner drop-off of the building’s second-floor balcony. 

The hub wrote that this action “was part of an international Day of Action taken by 15 other student-led groups on their campuses to demand their university eliminate fossil fuel companies’ influence,” in its official press release. 

Currently taking place in Dubai, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP28, is focussing on four central areas of climate change: transitioning to clean energy, centering nature, people, and lives, delivering on finances and mobilizing inclusivity. 

“They’re some of the most important climate talks in the whole year and they’re being run by fossil fuel executives,” said Magnolia Mead, a senior in the School of Public Affairs and the president of the University’s Sunrise hub. 

More than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended the conference last year, ultimately thwarting negotiations in a critical time. The Sunrise hub is urging professors to pledge to deny money from fossil fuel executives for research as they fear these executives are manipulating climate change policy. 

Hub spokesperson Lizzie Graff, a freshman in the School of Communication, emphasized the importance of students coming together to hold the University accountable. Graff described Sunrise as “an individual movement looking for a larger movement.” 

“A lot of us came to this university because we’re a younger generation and we know we have a large stake in the future,” Graff said. “Without us making a change, big CEOs, big fossil fuel executives are going to be able to make those decisions, and they’re not the ones living in the future.” 

As of 2020, the University has divested all its public fossil fuel investments from its endowment. Nonetheless, professors are still able to accept money from private investors to shape public perception of fossil fuels. Sunrise has asked students to approach their professors and request they pledge to deny research grants and funding from fossil fuel executives. 

“The reality is that most professors at AU actually don’t take fossil fuel money and it’s a very small minority,” Mead said to a crowd on the quad. “But we need to isolate them and call on them by showing the vast majority of people at AU are asking for them to take this action with us.”

With the hub trying to prevent the skewing of research agendas, Graff said, “Our mission is to make this world simply a better place, and to make it better for younger people.”

This article was edited by Kate Corliss, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.

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