Sustainability rally gets visit from student protestors


Photo courtesy of Chris Estrada

Student demonstrators protested the East Campus Development project during a speech on sustainability from Pescovitz on Oct. 4.

Throughout the month of October — recognized as ‘Sustainability Month’ — Oakland University will host a variety of events that promote sustainable living within the campus community. On Oct. 4, a Sustainability Awareness Rally was hosted by campus leaders next to Elliott Tower from 11:30-12:30 p.m. to mark the beginning of the event calendar.

Chris Reed, the director of the Oakland Center (OC), kicked off OU’s first annual recognition of Sustainability Month with a call to order. Reed explained that the purpose of the rally was to inform individuals about current sustainability initiatives and introduce some key environmental justice leaders on campus.

Steve Waterfield, the director of OU Athletics and an advisory board member of the OU Sustainability Plan, took the stage next. Waterfield highlighted the importance of community involvement of students, staff and faculty when it comes to achieving campus sustainability. 

“Sustainability is a very broad topic — there are a lot of areas involved,” Waterfield said. “It takes a team effort to achieve these goals, so it is important that each individual focus on what they can do personally to advance OU’s goals.”

OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz explained that on-campus sustainability has been a big priority of hers in recent years. She spoke about the committed individuals on campus, each of which will play an important role in furthering OU’s sustainable aims.

“It is important that Oakland University become a model for other universities,” Pescovitz said.

During Pescovitz’s speech, a group of students walked around Elliott Tower holding cardboard signs. This group of peaceful protesters was formed by students who expressed concerns about how the East Campus Development project will impact sustainability on campus.

“When we heard that this event was happening, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to challenge the administration to, essentially, put their money where their mouth is,” a student protester said. “Lately, it feels an awful lot like President Pescovitz and university administration care more about their profits than their university community. We only protested those speakers who we feel are active threats to our future.”

After Pescovitz’s speech, two OU Student Congress (OUSC) members took the stage to discuss the concept of sustainability through student perspectives. Andrew Romano, OUSC president, spoke passionately about preserving natural spaces on campus.

“We must put planet over profit and value nature for what it is,” Romano said. “We must not develop East Campus for money.”

Chiara Nava, the OUSC director of sustainability, spoke specifically about OUSC initiatives on campus. Nava explained that the planting of the pollinator garden next to the OC allows pollinating species to flourish and sustains plant growth.

Representatives from Campus Alliance for Sustainability and the Environment (CASE) explained various opportunities available to students interested in environmentalism on campus. Following the CASE presentation, various individuals shared spoken word poetry and their personal involvement with campus sustainable initiatives.

Reed returned to the podium to end the rally by providing closing remarks. He explained that sustainability should not end with the month of October; rather, it is imperative that we support environmental justice initiatives throughout our lives.

Throughout the month of October, OU will be hosting a variety of events designed to educate students about sustainability. In order to reach OU Sustainability goals, community members are encouraged to use their newfound knowledge to develop sustainable practices of their own.