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UConn students vow to hold more protests if school doesn’t specify carbon neutral steps

Rally attendees at supporting UConn to end fossil fuels at the UConn Campus on Nov. 14, 2023.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Rally attendees at supporting UConn to end fossil fuels at the UConn Campus on Nov. 14, 2023.

Students at the University of Connecticut (UConn) say the school has yet to offer any concrete details on divesting from fossil fuels and moving towards clean energy. They’re now willing to potentially disrupt the university's day-to-day operations until school officials meet their demands.

According to Monet Paredes, a political science major and organizer of a coalition called Fossil Fuel Free UConn, very little is off the table, citing similar fights over divestment from other schools in the region.

“Students have won these campaigns through things like sit-ins, and die-ins and camp outs and storming sports games,” Paredes said. "There's a multitude of tactics that work to get university attention and force universities to act. And we are not immune to those tactics.”

Paredes cites the school’s lack of communication on specific plans to rely more on clean energy and stop investing in non-renewable energy companies as the reason for potential student protests. She and other students attended a rally Tuesday and said they have been pressuring the school to act on these topics for two years.

And it comes in the wake of students organizing earlier this year at other higher-ed institutions like Connecticut College. The university issued a statement pushing back on the student's claims.

One of the rally's organizers, Colin Rosadino, a law student, said the school has not committed to a plan despite previous administrations voicing support for it.

One of the rally's organizers, Colin Rosadino, a law student, speaks at a rally to end fossil fuels at the UConn Campus on Nov. 14, 2023.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Colin Rosalindo speaks at a rally to end fossil fuels at the UConn Campus on Nov. 14, 2023.

“The lack of urgency is a privilege do right by your students, President (Radenka Maric) Maric, create the plan you promised,” Rosadino said.

The fight over decarbonization and divestment has gone on for two years, the students said. Maric announced a willingness to go forward with a plan in 2022 which listed, in part, initiatives to retire an existing energy plant powered by fossil fuels. School officials further pushed back on student claims Tuesday after the rally.

University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the school is working to install a hydrogen fuel dispenser along with buying 24 vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and two additional fuel centers at the Storrs campus among others.

UConn has yet to release what it calls an “action plan” but the school is committed to carbon neutrality, Reitz said.

“UConn is making significant strides in its plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and carbon negativity by 2040, with many initiatives already underway and others ahead,” Reitz said.

Reitz pointed to the school foundation’s website on fossil fuel divestment, which shows plans that are in the works.

“We hold only one fund primarily focused on fossil fuel projects, originated in 2013 and accounting for 0.06% of the total endowment pool. It is expected to wind down to zero by 2025,” Reitz said.

But Paredes said the university leaves out key information.

“What they don't don't disclose is their indirect investments, which are funds that give to companies like BlackRock, who have portfolios that they invest in funds that have companies like ours, that are involved in the fossil fuel industry,” Paredes said.

According to Paredes, its been difficult to meet with school officials on the topic. She also claimed the plan was supposed to come out earlier this year, but the school has not released details.

While UConn says it’s working on sustainability, Paredes said her fellow students will up the pressure, blaming the university for any disruptions.

“If they can't do that, then then we have no other choice.”

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