Activists against mountaintop removal coal mining met with administrators.
Administrators met with students and alumni involved with the Temple Community Against Mountaintop Removal, yesterday, Dec. 12.
The meeting came in the wake of three student arrests that took place two weeks ago after the activists staged a sit-in inside the campus branch of PNC Bank.
The group has been protesting Temple’s affiliation with PNC, which TCAMR continues to allege is the number one financier of mountaintop removal coal mining companies.
Through university pressure, the activists hope to end the financing of the coal mining process, which many believe has detrimental effects on the environment and the health of those who live near the mountains subjected to the process.
The three students who were arrested–Ethan Jury, Diane Isser and Daniel Teichman–were in attendance, along with eight students and two alumni, who filled the small Dean of Students conference room in the Student Center.
The gathering included Dean of Students Dr. Stephanie Ives, Chief of Staff Bill Bergman and Associate University Counsel Valerie Harrison.
Members of TCAMR began the meeting by addressing concerns over the arrests made during the sit-in and the university’s response to it.
“Our demands were that the [Board of Trustees] tell us when we could schedule a meeting and have a dialogue,” Ethan Jury, a senior Latin American studies major, said. “We were aware of the judicial consequences and felt that we had to continue our protest.”
Jury asked Bergman, who was in the bank at the time of the arrests, why he had not scheduled a meeting at that time in order to stop the sit-in and prevent the students from being arrested.
Bergman said that he had heard the police repeatedly warn the students before being arrested and he said that he “couldn’t have done something different [to prevent the arrest].”
As the meeting continued, Luke Byrnes, a 2009 Temple alumnus, commented that it has been hard to meet with the administration, to which Jury agreed.
“I consider it a very closed-door policy,” Jury said.
Harrison replied by affirming that the students weren’t ignored, and that it is a matter of perspective.
“I think it’s perspective to say you weren’t able to participate,” Harrison said. “The notion that you were ignored is perspective.”
Brianne Murphy, a senior religion and visual anthropology major, said that the process has been frustrating.
“We all lose perspective as we sit in this room,” Murphy said.
Murphy added that Temple has a greater power as an institution to bring change than the students do alone.
As the meeting came to a close, Bergman said that the students’ voices would be heard by the administration.
“We’ll go back to report your concerns, we’ll talk to you anytime you want,” Bergman said.
Ives also reaffirmed that the students would have a voice and also preached civility during the process.
“Civility is a fundamental value,” Ives said.
Though the meeting’s occurrence was seen as a success by some, others in attendance were dissatisfied with its outcome.
“I don’t think it really accomplished anything,” Linda Wolfe, a junior dance major, said. “I was listening to the students present how they were feeling and their demands and I felt like the administrators that were present beat around the bush and nothing was answered.”
Murphy agreed and said that the meeting did not address the concerns and demands that are being made by TCAMR.
“We accomplished a meeting which was good,” Murphy said. “So we’ve accomplished a meeting with no one from the Board of Trustees, no one from the Investments Committee and not the president. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate any dialogue, however, with all of the supplemental information that was given, the meeting was very short-sited, very defensive and didn’t accomplish or address any demands of the larger issue.”
Though many of the students did not feel like the meeting accomplished much, Jury offered some hope for future dialogue between the administration and TCAMR.
“I want us all to work together,” Jury said. “This isn’t we versus them.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.