In an unexpected turn of events following the Kyoto Now! press conference in Willard Straight Hall yesterday, demonstrators in support of the Kyoto agreement marched to Day Hall and began a sit-in protest in response to the University’s denial to meet certain environmental protection standards.
Cornell police officers physically dragged out the protesters after approximately three hours of non-violent demonstration in Day Hall.
Kyoto Now! is a part of a national organization dedicated to the ratification of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty.
The United States and other industrial countries signed the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty in 1997 in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cornell Kyoto Now! demanded that the University commit, “to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent below the 1990 levels of emissions by 2004. These reductions are not on a square foot basis, but based on the total campus emissions,” as stated in their list of demands made to Campus administration.
The Kyoto treaty has been opposed by the current Bush administration and the Republican majority.
“Cornell is a leading institution in this country, it has the ability to change paradigms and set an example for other universities to follow,” said Jeanette LeBoyer ’01, a member of Kyoto.
“As a leading learning institution in this country [Cornell] has a duty to take responsibility for polluting air and for degrading the eco-system. Cornell has the ability to change its actions and should,” she added.
Kyoto Now! activists held the press conference in the Willard Straight Art Gallery yesterday and opened with brief comments from Kyoto Now! coordinator Frankie Lind ’01.
“All semester long we’ve been working with the Kyoto Now! campaign. We’ve worked with the University on protecting environmental issues and trying to get them to abide by Kyoto protocol,” he said.
Along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Cornell’s Kyoto Now! organization demands include an official public statement from Cornell that commits to Kyoto Now! principles.
Further demands now include the use of bathrooms and access to food and water during the sit-in in Day Hall which began yesterday and their pardoning from any illegal actions during the demonstration.
Harold Craft Jr., vice president for administration, is the Cornell official who primarily deals with Kyoto Now! and its demands made to the University.
During yesterday’s press conference Lind read excerpts from Cornell’s official statement given by Craft regarding the application of Kyoto protocol principles to Cornell. The press conference ended with a general outcry from the crowd, as students began their trek to Day Hall.
Craft’s letter praised the students and community for being concerned with pressing environmental issues and advocated finding environment-friendly solutions to University procedures.
“I wholeheartedly endorse your aspirations and those of your colleagues to reduce significantly the production of greenhouse gases so as to slow, as much as possible, any global warming attributed to this cause,” Craft said in his letter.
The letter went on to cite six major environment-friendly projects which Cornell has undertaken in the past, and which have resulted in a nine percent reduction in energy use on campus since 1990. However, Craft’s letter went on to state that the University cannot guarantee that the Kyoto protocol would be met within the time frame given.
“I am frustrated by being asked to make an absolute commitment while not knowing the implications of that commitment to Cornell,” Craft said. “I’m not willing to take further actions which would be irrespective to those implications,” he said.
Although the University cites a lack of information as a cause for its inability to make a sound decision at this time, demonstrators have other ideas.
“This is an institution of learning before it’s a money making corporation. Cornell should be able to put forth the money for implementing Kyoto Now! standards. Right now money is the only reason Cornell isn’t acting,” said Julie Baribeau ’02, president of the Cornell Greens and a founding member of the Kyoto movement.
Barbara Dybwad, an office systems specialist at the Biotechnology Building, explained that the entire Kyoto Now! platform went beyond monetary issues.
“Its about valuing human life over profit and money. Its about cleaning up after ourselves, a lesson we learned in kindergarten — but have seemed to forgotten,” Dybwad said.
Seven people sat peacefully in the lobby of Day Hall for approximately four hours. Each wore buttons displaying their support for the Kyoto accords and a cloth sign pinned to their backs reading “Kyoto Now” while singing hand in hand.
“The students want a commitment tonight, which we can’t responsibly give to them,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations. “When asked if they knew what such a change entailed, the students they did not know, but simply wanted Kyoto protocol to take immediate priority with the University.”
Alumnus Doug Kirsch ’00 was the only protester to be arrested during the sit-in, while Emily Cikanek ’04, Craig Fasullo ’02, Jennie Heinlin ’04, Charlie Israel ’04, Lindsey Saunders ’03, and Dorothy Stowe ’04 were issued appearance tickets to the Judicial Administrator after a meeting with Susan H. Murphy, vice president of student and academic services, and Lt. Michael Blenman, Cornell University Police.
“We are prepared to work with students, organizations, and faculty to identify what such policy changes entail,” Dullea said. “The student protestors were offered a chance to meet with Hal Craft in Barton Hall tonight to further discuss the statement issued by Cornell in regard to this matter, but they refused.”
Each supporter was then physically removed from Day Hall as University rules state that students must leave campus buildings after closing.
“While Hal Craft is a great friend of ours, people have to understand that we are working with a machine right now. Cornell can catalyze national action by setting an example. It is a time for action. If not us, who?” Lind asked.
“This protest is about fun. It’s about the community, positive attitudes and positive behavior,” he added.
“Honestly I feel things like this, energetic debates on controversial issues are what make working at a university exciting and interesting,” Craft said.
Support of the Kyoto Now! cause was felt from many passing motorists who honked their horns in approval of the protest.
After being removed from Day Hall, the members of Kyoto Now! remained unfazed. Many members stated that they would remain in front of Day Hall for the entire night.
“Tomorrow we will have lots of music, more food and fun. Lots of positive energy and Kyoto Now! advocates will be around to answer questions about the campaign and spread the word further,” Lind said.
Archived article by Julia Macdonald