© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Washington U Students Object To Energy Firm Executive's Seat as Trustee

(Washington University Students Against Peabody)
Students at Washington University protest outside a Board of Trustees meeting on Friday. Seven students who tried to enter the building were arrested.

Seven students at Washington University in St. Louis were arrested Friday after attempting to enter an administration building on the Danforth campus where a board of trustees meeting was being held. The students were among a group of 100 protestors rallying against the school’s connection to Peabody Energy.

Caroline Burney, a Washington University senior, said the protestors were trying to deliver a letter of resignation to Peabody's chief executive officer Greg Boyce, who is also a university trustee.

“While it was inspiring to be with so many people who want the university to change and be better and move beyond with its relationships with Peabody, it really shows the ways in which the university is in the pocket of all of these corporations,” Burney said.

Peabody has come under fire in recent years for displacing indigenous and rural communities in Black Mesa, Ariz., and Rocky Branch, Ill.. 

Georgia McCandlish, a Washington University senior, was one of the arrested protestors. She said she was surprised by the police turnout, and agreed with other students who were arrested that they should have been allowed into the building to talk with administrators and trustees. 

“The University made a pretty big statement today by being more willing to construct us as student protestors, as criminals, than someone like Greg Boyce, who we’re asking for accountability from on their board of trustees,” McCandlish said.

Washington University said in a statement that students had been warned they could not enter the building.

Students Against Peabody, the student group that organized Friday’s rally, held a 16-day sit-in that ended last Friday. In addition to Boyce's removal from the board, the group demanded that Chancellor Mark Wrighton tour areas around Peabody's mines and issue a public statement about his experiences. They also wanted all trustees to be elected by the students.

In a statement, Wrighton and Provost Holden Thorp said that while the school respects the right of students to express their concerns, the university would not meet their demands:

Over the course past few weeks, the two of us have had numerous conversations directly with student organizers to listen to their concerns. Many issues have been raised and though we may not always agree, we have welcomed constructive and respectful dialog. This is consistent with who we are as an institution and the way we interact as a community. Communication from the student organizers has laid out several demands that we cannot and will not meet. However, there are steps we are going to take to address concerns that have been raised.

The university says it will allow student representatives to coordinate with the board of trustees through a subcommittee, and continue its research into viable sources of alternative energy.

Friday's protest was the last event for Students Against Peabody this academic year.

Follow Nora on Twitter: @noraaibrahim