ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A group of Washington University in St. Louis students wants Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce off of the Board of Trustees.
"I think Greg Boyce's influence at WashU is very worrisome and very unclear at this point," senior Christa Peterson said.
"We feel bothered by Peabody's practices both in regards to the environment and how it's damaging the environment," said junior Mahroh Jahangiri. "And also because Peabody's business practices that actively have targeted communities of color in St. Louis and other parts of the United States."
The students point to a lawsuit filed accusing Peabody of damaging the water supply in Black Mesa, Ariz. where it operates a coal mine. They have three other demands. They want the top administrators to visit places where Peabody operates, and more student representation on the Board of Trustees.
"One of the main reasons I protested and why i'm here is because i'm very concerned about the university's use of clean coal terminology. So clean coal is a term that's created by the coal industry," Peterson said.
Representatives from the group met with administrators Tuesday afternoon.
The university released a statement saying they are taking steps to address their concerns including hosting a symposium to explore issues of corporate responsibility, and allowing more input from student reps on the Board of Trustees. Senior Julia Ho says they backtracked on initial negotiations.
"Clearly although the Chancellor and the Provost claim they have the power to make these decisions, at the end of the day Peabody's money speaks louder than the students and the faculty here who are in support of what we're doing," Ho said.
We reached out to Peabody to get a response to this sit-in. A spokesperson says: Peabody is proud to support Washington University in St. Louis and its leadership in education, as well as in clean coal research.
You can read the university's full statement below:
The organized sit-in on the Washington University campus now is in its 14th day. We continue to support our students' right and ability to express their views.
Over the course of the sit-in, 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 dialogue. This is consistent with who we are as an institution and the way we interact as a community.
The most recent communication from the student organizers lays 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.
As one of the world's leading institutions, Washington University has a unique opportunity to enhance the quality of life close to home and around the world. We do so through our roles as convener, educator, researcher and community leader.
In our role as convener, we will host a symposium to explore the issues of corporate social responsibility and how institutions like ours can help to motivate positive change. We will work with students to frame the agenda and select speakers.
In our role as educator, we will provide an opportunity for student representatives of our Board of Trustees to be more actively engaged in board meetings by regularly presenting their perspectives on matters that are of interest to the student body. This would include the opportunity to present Student Union resolutions to the Undergraduate Experience Committee of the Board of Trustees.
In our role as researcher, we will continue to work toward cutting edge discoveries that will solve one of the greatest challenges of this century: meeting the world's energy needs with minimal effect on the environment. Right now, principally through our International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES), Washington University researchers and students are exploring remarkable possibilities to make alternative energy sources more viable. We also are focused on mitigating the environmental impact of the use of coal, including approaches to capturing and storing carbon dioxide that accompanies combustion of any fossil fuel.
Also in our role as researcher, we are willing to consider the terminology we use to define our work, particularly if it helps to better describe the breadth and potential positive impact of our discoveries.
Lastly, in our role as community leader, we will continue to invest in sustainability efforts that directly reduce our own carbon footprint. Meeting LEED-certification standards in new construction, increasing our use of solar energy, promoting recycling and composting, and providing ride-share and other alternative transportation options are some of the many ways in which Washington University is leading by example and positively impacting the environment.
No matter the role we fulfill, we will act in a way that reflects the university's respectful, collaborative and supportive community. At the same time, we will foster an environment where our students feel their voices are heard.