Thursday afternoon, more than 20 members of the divestment campaign gathered at the Torchbearer to march to Chief Financial Officer Charles Peccolo's office in Andy Holt Tower.

Together, they presented their response to the rejection letter the group received in December.

In addition, the group carried a banner emblazoned with "Fossil Free UT," covered with signatures. Upon arrival, campaign members hosted a "study-in" in the office's lobby.

David Hayes, a junior in supply chain management, introduced the action to Tammie Cole, Peccolo's assistant, saying the group was not there to do anything "crazy."

However, Cole announced that Peccolo was out of town until Wednesday. Yet, the students still delivered their letter and banner with Cole's promise to pass it along, even scanning it within minutes to send to Peccolo.

The group then began their "study-in," similar to a "sit-in," where they scattered throughout the office's lobby to study quietly and occupy the area, much to the confusion of administrators walking in and out.

Through a hand-out given to participants to assist in talking points with members of the administration, Hayes explained the demonstration was meant to peacefully "protest the Office of the Treasurer and Investment Advisory Committee's decision to reject divestment."

"The dangers of fossil fuels are not debatable!" the hand-out read. "UT needs to become a true leader in sustainability and divest!"

Undeterred by Peccolo's absence, Jake Rainey, a senior in journalism and electronic media, said he believes the action remained powerful nonetheless. Giving of the letter to Peccolo, he said, is a more ceremonial element of the protest than a critical component of their mission.

"Honestly, it's not what the letter says but what the action behind the letter means," Rainey said. "He's still going to get the message, and he's going to know that this was a really full lobby of students ready and who want divestment to happen. Despite that he wasn't here, it was a great achievement."

Live tweeting the action using the campaign's @DivestUT Twitter account, Christina Gore, a freshman in environmental studies, used the event to connect with other schools and divestment groups, so "they can maybe do the same thing." She even received a tweet from Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org, who organizes similar worldwide events.

Collectively sporting orange patches, the campaign visually united with other activists working for divestment. The banner they presented held approximately 40 signatures, many of whom represented persons unable attend the event. Ana Reboredo, a senior in ecology and evolutionary biology, said she believes these signatures speak "for the people who aren't able to be here right now."

Jesse Farber-Eger, a freshman in sociology, arrived after the initial presentation to support the campaign.

"I came to show my support. It's about our future and the grander scheme," Farber-Eger said. "It's the future of our planet. Anything that we can do adds up, so I think it's worth it."

A testament to the dedication of members of the campaign locally and internationally, Rainey said he hopes the protest will spur even further activism.

"It proves that there are a lot of students that are willing to do something," Rainey said. "Nowadays, you find that people aren't really putting any conviction behind their actions.

"You've seen a huge lull in protests throughout the country especially here in the Southeast, so this is how serious we are about this movement. It is the new movement of the time. We're serious about it here and all across the country."

 

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