Just two weeks ago, two groundbreaking events were held by two of Michigan State’s environmental groups: MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace. Since then, the nation has been alight with the issue of the T.B. Simon coal-fired power plant, the largest on-campus coal plant in the country.
On Wednesday, October 19th, MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace hosted a “Dirty Dancing Flash Mob for Clean Energy” in front of the Hannah Administration building. This flash mob was just one event in a much larger national month of action called “100% clean: 100 actions for clean energy” It was cold, windy and raining all day, and by the time 4 p.m. rolled around the weather had not lightened up at all, but that didn’t stop dozens of students from gathering before the steps of the administration building. To the tune of House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” students danced in the rain, their dancing symbolizing the “song and dance” that the administration wants the students to perform. However, as the song progressed, small groups of students began to stop dancing. They donned surgical masks with stickers reading “100% clean” across the front, and sat around a standing central figure who held a poster with coal-related health facts, symbolizing the refusal of the student body to participate in this “song and dance” any longer.
MSU Beyond Coal president Talya Tavor set the mood with a slam poem about coal, the effects of coal, her story, and the role that the administration plays. She was followed by three incredible speakers; Nic Clark, the Michigan Campaigns Director of Clean Water Action; Robbie Richardson, a CARRS professor at MSU; and Douglas Jester, the former mayor of East Lansing and a senior consultant with 5 Lakes Energy. When the inspiring speakers finished, banners were unfurled revealing the phone numbers of a handful of administrators at MSU, including: Fred Poston, the Vice President of Finance and Operations; Lou Anna K. Simon, the President of MSU; and the MSU Board of Trustees. Adam Liter, the Vice President of MSU Greenpeace, made the first call to the President’s office demanding that she make a directive to the Steering Committee for 100% renewable energy on campus.
All in all, dozens of students frustrated with the administrations lack of action, braved the harsh Michigan autumn weather to relay an important message to the administration. We students demand that our health be taken seriously and the university transition to 100% clean, renewable energy sources. We are sick of being sick!
There is a nice, short article and video of the event in The State News.
The next day, seven members of MSU Greenpeace marched up the steps of the administration again, wearing the same surgical masks. But this time they sat in the lobby of President Simon’s office and proceeded to read the hundreds of names off of the petitions they collected over the past year. Each name was a student who demanded that the university transition to 100% clean, renewable energy and retire the T.B. Simon coal plant. For two years now, students have been actively voicing their concerns about the coal plant, and still the administration does not seem to take these concerns seriously. Since the student demands were not being met from afar, these students decided to take their concerns directly to President Simon.
The Hannah Administration building closes at 5 p.m.. At that time, the police asked the students to leave. Four of them did. Not because of intimidation, but because that had been the plan. Three members (Peter Rustad, Adam Liter and Kendra Majewski) stayed, and were arrested for trespassing.
This amazing video by Greenpeace describes the event further.
We, members of Beyond Coal, members of Greenpeace, and the student body in general, have been trying to make our voices heard. We’ve set up meetings. We’ve called. We’ve gathered petitions. We’ve rallied. Members of Greenpeace have taken the concerns of the student body directly to President Simon’s office. Still our concerns are not being heard by the administration. But after last Thursday’s sit-in, our concerns are being heard elsewhere. The State News, the Lansing State Journal, Michigan Messenger, mlive, The Oakland Press, The Chicago Tribune, Channel 4 News in Detroit, and many other news sources and blogs covered the event.
The events of this week caused a stir across the nation, and the momentum from it followed us and carried us through MidWest Powershift 2011.