Sit-in organizers reject administration’s offer, keep to their demands
With the sit-in against Peabody Energy now in its third week, Washington University officials have made their first counteroffer to the student organizers’ demands.
Organizers, however, have deemed the offer, which directly addresses only one of their stated demands, insufficient, and they plan to continue their sit-in under Brookings Archway, which began April 8.
At a meeting between student organizers, Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Provost Holden Thorp on Tuesday, the administration laid out the terms of its offer: holding a symposium on corporate social responsibility, allowing student representatives to the board of trustees present Student Union resolutions to the Undergraduate Experience Committee and agreeing to reconsider the terminology it uses in regard to scientific research. The last term was likely in reference to the term “clean coal” in the name of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization.
They did not address the students’ primary demands that Wrighton visit Peabody’s mines and remove Peabody CEO Greg Boyce from the board of trustees.
Organizer and junior Julia Ho said that, at multiple previous meetings, Thorp had been amenable to having administrators tour the Peabody mine in Rocky Branch, Ill., but negotiations fell apart when sit-in organizers pushed for administrators to also visit the mine in Black Mesa, Ariz., take a clear stance against the term “clean coal” and commit to their offer in writing.
“It made it very real for them,” Ho said. “They sort of went three steps back.”
Jill Friedman, vice chancellor for public affairs, said the administration was not negotiating with the students but having conversations, which can be difficult when the terms it is approached with continue to change.
She stressed that the steps the administration has committed to taking are appropriate for the University, particularly its decision to host a symposium where academic and intellectual leaders could discuss how to “motivate positive change” moving forward.
“Each of the points that were made in the response from the chancellor and the provost would not only make a difference, but they are also appropriate steps for an institution like ours to take,” Friedman said.
She added that, due to his dual roles as a chemist and an academic, Wrighton understands and cares about energy.
“He’s been very invested; he’s been a national leader…[on] how to address the energy challenge,” Friedman said. “This is something he sees as one of the greatest global challenges of the century.”
Ho said the decision to host a symposium was not in their previous talking points and not sufficient to make up for the demands the administration refused. She said that as of Sunday, administrators had suggested they would tour Rocky Branch and send a letter to Greg Boyce about any concerns they heard from locals there.
Ho said they are now primarily looking to rally support around the upcoming board of trustees meeting that will happen on May 1. She said the sit-in organizers do not currently have any meetings set with administrators but are open to more discussions if the University approaches them.
“This made it very clear to us who holds the power in our administration,” Ho said. “For us, it’s not the students, it’s not the faculty—at the end of the day, it’s these corporations…and the people who are giving us money.”
Wrighton and Thorp could not be reached for comment Wednesday.