Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Student group petitioning for campus change

Donning bright orange T-shirts, students pushing for Plattsburgh State to remove its investments in fossil fuel, or divest, tabled in the Angell College Center Feb. 13.

The group spoke with people about the benefits of divestment and collected over 100 signatures on a divestment petition to be submitted to the college administration.

“We need students to show support in any way they can and worry about the movement,” said PSUC senior Adrian Arrivillaya, a member of the tabling group.

The group’s main objective is to increase the future stability of the college and demonstrate PSUC’s environmental initiative to other institutions.

“We would like to see SUNY Plattsburgh remove all fossil fuel investments,” said sophomore Aaron Baltich-Schecter, who is also the student co-chair for the Campus Committee of Environmental Responsibility, a presidential committee that develops and funds green projects on campus. The support group believes that, through divestment, the fossil fuel industry will lose its “social license,” essentially turning it into an industry that most politicians do not want to be associated with, such as tobacco.

Additionally, the group pointed to large oil companies as a source of funding for climate denial, which is the dismissal of the scientific conclusion that climate change is occurring, its significance and its connection with human behavior.
“This is an economic, social, political and reputation issue,” Arrivillaya said.

In order to push the college toward divestment, support group members have designed a six-step plan they displayed at the Feb. 13 tabling event. The steps to success, the group said, are to first assemble a team, develop a campaign strategy to convince voters, further support building on campus and then turn up the heat on the administration by pressuring them to pursue divestment.

After those steps are completed, supporters will seek to escalate the process to achieve total divestment.

“It’s hypocritical for the school to ‘go green’ but invest in companies that cause environmental damage,” said PSUC junior Nick Rutkowski, also a tabling member.

PSUC is not alone in the divestment movement. Students at other SUNY schools have also organized groups advocating for divestment. Among the schools with divestment movements, SUNY Geneseo and SUNY ESF are at the forefront of the environmental movement. Students from both colleges have created a Facebook page and Twitter account for their respective schools, providing facts and statistics about divestment and encouraging people to express their opinions.

At the time of printing, SUNY Geneseo had 234 ‘likes’ on its Facebook page, Divest SUNY Geneseo, and weekly meeting times are posted for the public.

For those who are interested in the movement on the PSUC campus, the group holds open meetings Monday evenings at 8 p.m. in Meeting Room 4 in the ACC.

Email Thomas Marble at thomas.marble@cardinalpointsonline.com

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