Hundreds of climate change protesters chanted in front of the home of Miami University’s president on Friday, and when they found out he wasn’t there, they marched across campus to where he was.
At the time, Miami University President Gregory Crawford was participating in a meeting with the school’s governing board of trustees.
The more than 300 protesters, who formed one of the larger student political demonstrations at Miami in years, decided to take their signs and bullhorn-assisted chants across campus to surround the entrances to the Marcum Center, where the trustees meet.
They yelled for Crawford and university officials to sign the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment (PCLC) already signed by many schools across America in a pledge to move away from fossil fuels and committing to carbon neutrality, which supporters claim will lessen the global impact of climate change.
Amid shouts of “sign it now,” a few students periodically pounded on the outside of doors and windows near the trustees’ meeting room.
The crowd of mostly Miami students, which was joined by dozens of older protesters, were part of a worldwide event Global Climate Strike on Friday that drew massive crowds in some countries.
But Miami officials tried to explain that Miami has already begun to explore signing the PCLC. Some of the student leaders were invited inside Marcum to meet with Crawford after the trustees meeting.
Crawford said that the school in recent years has launched a series of carbon-reducing reforms and infrastructure changes designed to reduce the school’s environmental impact.
Crawford told the Journal-News he applauded the students’ activist passion for energy sustainability while lessening America’s reliance on fossil-based fuels.
“That’s the Miami student,” Crawford said. “The Miami student gets out there and starts now while they are here at school and doesn’t wait until they graduate. We admire all that they do.”
Crawford said Miami created a sustainability committee in January to prepare a new sustainability plan.
One of the 10 objectives of the committee was to consider whether Miami should sign the PCLC agreement, he said.
When asked if Friday’s student protests would prompt the school to sign the environmental agreement, Crawford said no.
“But it’s great to hear from the students because we are committed to our sustainability efforts in a big way. And we’re so glad all the campus is very passionate about this as we are … as the board of trustees is to be committed to our efforts and continue the pathway forward,” he said.
The Miami sustainability committee is scheduled to release a final report about signing the PCLC agreement by Jan. 1, 2020.
Miami sophomore Lauren Doepke, one of the leaders of the protest, said after meeting with Crawford that she and other students were frustrated about not knowing of Miami’s existing sustainability programs and plans for more.
“We got some answers. They (school officials) are trying to find out if the PCLC (agreement) is a good fit for Miami. Either way, Miami is going to be striving toward carbon neutrality,” Doepke told the remaining two dozen protesters who waited outside the Marcum Center to hear a summation of Crawford’s meeting with student leaders.
“I think, based on what they (school officials) said, by the end of this school year could really have something and be officially striving toward carbon neutrality.”
University police reported no incidents and school officials said there was no disruption of classes for the more than 19,000 students on the Oxford campus.
But some protesters were adamant during the march about the PCLC agreement being the best option for Miami’s.
“We’re trying to make the university administration more aware of climate change and that students here are passionate about making a difference and creating a greener community here at Miami,” said Miami senior Mitchell Singstock. “There are an incredible amount of people here and I think the university will have to notice.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.