Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Students protest Bank of America for funding coal mining

Coughing dramatically and falling to the ground in front of a business school information session, around 35 Washington University students joined a national protest against Bank of America last week.

The students were voicing opposition to Bank of America’s choice to fund mountaintop coal mining practices—in which coal companies blow the tops off mountains to create coal mines.

The Wednesday and Thursday protests, held at the company’s career fair and informational presentations, were the first of a series of protests backed by Rainforest Action Network at different college campuses across the country.

“We’re not necessarily anti-Bank of America, but we’re against one of their practices, which is funding this type of coal mining,” senior Rachel Goldstein said. “Basically, they’re allowing this really destructive process to happen by giving them loans, and we were asking them to stop.”

At Wednesday’s protest, senior Sam Wein presented a speech about the company’s responsibility for its contributions in regard to major environmental issues.

“Bank of America should be thinking about its efforts and contributions to larger and global and national issues and how funding coal does harm the environmental a lot more than they give it credit for,” Wein said. “It was really exciting to be able to be involved and remind people of the voices and messages that they can get out.”

During a Bank of America recruitment session in Simon Hall Thursday, the students stood in the room during the presentation with their signs and banners. They presented a quick speech about the harms of mountaintop coal mining, both in terms of the environment and public health. The protest concluded with all the students coughing loudly and then collapsing to the floor, making a point in regard to the negative health effects of coal mining, before being escorted out of the room.

“Since we were the first action being taken, we wanted to open it up with a bang,” senior Caroline Burney said. “We wanted to have as much opportunity to engage with the bank as possible, and I think having two different protests on different days helped to make the point clear that we care about this issue.”

Burney, working with a group of other students, wanted to design the protests in a way that would make a point but do so in a more lighthearted way that didn’t make students feel like it was an attack.

“I thought the protests went really well, and I think everyone that [was] involved was really high-energy,” Burney said. “I don’t think we made any changes overnight, but this is a really winnable campaign, and I think that Bank of America is having concerns about the effect that this is having on their image, and we’re just helping to drill that question into their mind. Doing this really helps to generate dialogue about questioning what our major financial institutions are investing in.”

A representative from Bank of America could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

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  • Balanced Approach says:

    Prior to participating in such activities which only serve to embarrass your school, you might want to fully investigate all of the information and all of the economic issues associated with mining instead of just those that are typically floated around liberal academia.

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  • rabbit says:

    like ugh

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  • Come on. says:

    Give me a break. There are a lot better ways to protest coal mining than embarrassing the school in the eyes of an employer, disrupting other student’s learning, and ruining their chances at getting internships at Bank of America.

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    • Freedom of Speech is only Effective when People are Listening says:

      Would you like to share what some of those suggestions might be?

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      • Shameful Display says:

        Not the OP, but there are numerous BOA ATMs around campus as well as a newly added office by the Bookstore. If you’re trying to raise awareness, picket one of them. Or if you want WashU to cut ties with BOA petition the administration. But it is shameless attention mongering to protest at an information session where your fellow classmates are trying to further their careers by finding internships or jobs. And now all the recruiters (who have no power in the matter of BOA giving loans, might I add) will remember of our great school and the brilliant students who go here is how in a formal setting like Meet the Firms there was a mass exodus of students who had to be escorted from the premises because they were bashing their company. You can further your cause without the militant activism and stepping on the toes of your classmates and peers. Shame on you

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  • tom says:

    West Virginia has many assets besides coal that can be employed for economic advantage, important among them the natural beauty of the state. Riverine pollution has the potental to impoverish people in an irreversible manner. Go WUSTL.

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  • Human Cost says:

    “Yes, destroy the economy of West Virginia and the rest of Appalachia, and leave its inhabitants impoverished and miserable.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878