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OU environmental organization meets with administrators to discuss sustainability on campus

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Climate Strike

OU students and activists protest climate change in a strike hosted by the Environmental Justice Coalition Oklahoma on the South Oval and in Evans Hall Nov. 7.

The environmental group that organized a Nov. 7 climate strike on campus met with OU administrators multiple times in the weeks following. 

The Environmental Justice Coalition of Oklahoma’s strike for climate justice lasted more than three hours and ended with negotiations for a meeting between protestors and OU administrators and officials. 

In a statement, the group described the event as “a true victory for climate conscious OU students and the broader Norman community” after meeting with university administration twice in November. 

According to the statement, an initial meeting on Nov. 11 allowed five student representatives to discuss the sit-in demands with university staff. Another meeting was held Nov. 19, and members of the group met with university operations staff. 

Sit-in organizer Gant Roberson said the main purpose of the sit-in was to gain an opportunity to discuss the Environmental Justice Coalition of Oklahoma’s list of demands with administrators. 

“We really just wanted to make sure that the administration was aware that sustainability is on the minds of a lot of students and that it should be at the front of the priority list of the administration,” Roberson said. 

Roberson said the meetings after the sit-in demonstrated the beginning of a dialogue with university leaders. 

“With any policy change, it takes time. It’s not something that could just be achieved overnight,” Roberson said. “I think the most important thing that’s been achieved is a line of communication between students who are environmentally concerned in the administration and the work that’s being done on sustainability, and a discussion about how we can work towards achieving sustainability.” 

According to a statement from a university spokesperson about the climate sit-in and the resulting meetings, OU administrators are open to discussion about sustainability efforts on campus, as well as options for improvement.

“Administrators had a productive conversation with student representatives of an environmental rights groups about ongoing, pending and future sustainability efforts,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

The university encourages any students interested in continuing the discussion about sustainability efforts on campus to attend the weekly meetings of the SGA Student Environmental Coalition, according to the statement. 

Roberson said in an email that, so far, the administration hasn’t promised anything definitive apart from agreeing to complete an audit of the university’s recycling program last week. 

He said the main goal of the group now will be holding administrators accountable on the changes it agrees to make. The group also hopes to use the SGA Student Environmental Coalition as a way to strengthen communication between the administration and the student body. 

“We just have to do our due diligence in making sure that the administration is kind of being proactive — making sustainability an important part of their agenda,” Roberson said. “Because at this point, the ball is in their court … the administration is responsible for making sure that the school is functioning and developing programs.”

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