Students stage ‘die-in’ for climate change advocacy

Minnesota Youth Climate Strike at UMN protesters laid on the floor of Coffman Union Thursday with tombstone-shaped signs.

Sophomore Riley Fletcher, left, and Senior Natasha Sohni, right, lie on the ground as part of UMN Climate Strike's die-in at Coffman Union calling for a divestment from fossil fuels at the University of Minnesota.

Jack Rodgers

Sophomore Riley Fletcher, left, and Senior Natasha Sohni, right, lie on the ground as part of UMN Climate Strike’s die-in at Coffman Union calling for a divestment from fossil fuels at the University of Minnesota.

Jiang Li

Approximately 30 to 40 University of Minnesota students staged a “die-in” Thursday on the floors of Coffman Union to raise awareness about the effects of climate change.

Minnesota Youth Climate Strike at UMN organized the protest, many bearing posters shaped like tombstones with phrases like “RIP – THE GREAT BARRIER REEF.” The protesters also called for the University to be transparent about whether it invests in the fossil fuel industry

Students laid scattered on the first floor, catching the attention of many who walked by. The die-in lasted about 15 minutes. The demonstration was part of a nationwide campaign, sweeping almost 60 campuses across the U.S.

“We thought it would be really powerful to  join that movement and harness the moment that other schools have,” said the University senior Savannah Wery, who is one of the co-leaders of the group. “I think it was good to kind of like get our name out there and get divestment out there as a concept.”

Kendra Wendt, a University sophomore who witnessed the protest, said she thought the group’s message was important. 

“I thought it was really cool that they just laid there and you have to see it while walking through or studying,” Wendt said. “It reinforces … that yeah, it is the problem that we have to fix now,” 

After the die-in, students then moved to Bruininks Hall, where the group’s leaders ran a teaching session on divestment. During the meeting, students created Valentine’s Day cards to be delivered to the Board of Regents Friday in an effort to persuade the board members to “break up” with fossil fuels.

The UMN Climate Strike met with President Joan Gabel late last year to advocate for the University’s divestment from fossil fuels. They plan to meet with Gabel’s staff sometime next week to discuss the University declaring a climate emergency. 

University senior Sydney Murray, who is one of the co-leads of UMN Climate Strike, said she thinks the University should not invest in the fossil fuel industry and is looking for the University to disclose its investments.

“We have no idea how much money they invest for fossil fuel right now,” said University junior Katherine Sehnid, another co-lead of the group. “We deserve to know that as students.”

The student group plans to meet with University administrators throughout the semester to advocate for divestment.

“Even though Minnesota has experienced some parts of climate change like extreme temperature, we still do have a lot of privilege,” Sehnid said. “Most of us are not on the front lines. … So, it is important for us to use the privilege and use our voices as students to try and make change happen for communities that are still struggling.”