Missouri State University Students take the Battle for Renewable Energy to the Board of Governors
Early Friday morning, the Board of Governors sat stiffly facing a large audience of Missouri State University faculty and staff, preparing for their routine meeting. They seemed a little surprised by the number of students that slowly filed into the room, all sporting a bright yellow Beyond Coal shirt or flashy buttons. This especially, since it was the first day of Winter Break and most students had already gone home or taken their first opportunity in a long while to catch a few more hours of sleep. Their looks of surprise changed to bewilderment as even more students and community supporters continued to trickle in as the meeting progressed, filling all vacant seats and some taking to standing in the back of the room. Attendees even included a handful of our friends from Coal Free Mizzou!
It wasn’t until the final hour, literally, that they reached the topic they must have realized that we were all there for, the discussion on “Sustainability,” or as we would have titled it, “Moving Missouri State Beyond Coal.” Lots of voices were heard on the topic, including several of our very own student leaders (Evan Clark, Kara Andres, Shane Franklin and Lauren Bansbach), who laid out the problem with coal, solutions and benefits to transitioning to clean energy, and our asks of the Board… in just EIGHT minutes! The students were then followed by a presentation from City Utilities and then one by the university’s Vice President of Administrative & Informational Services, a former executive at City Utilities. Despite the obvious opposition, the Board members came out in force backing the student’s passion for this urgent cause.
While there was certainly a mixed bag of responses shared by the Board during the 30-minute discussion section that followed the presentations, the highlights showed brightly. Three of the Board members vocalized that this issue, referring to our fight for sustainable energy, is the civil rights struggle of our millennial generation as they recalled growing up in the age of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Vietnam protests. Another member of the Board responded to the VP’s rant about all the great things the university has already done, saying, “We’re not thinking big enough.” The students have laid out a pathway into the future, “I think we should join them,” another Board member said. The Board meeting ended with the President committing to form a committee to address this urgent energy issue! While we still have a lot of work to do (engaging stakeholders, conducting and analyzing energy audits, and getting a public commitment with a deadline), this meeting was a huge victory in our campaign for 100% coal-free electricity. Our voices were heard… the campus and community are listening and ready to be a part of this effort. The future of Missouri looks a little brighter because of it.