Mtn Justice Repost: 1,000 WVU Students Petition Against Dirty Coal Money (WV)
West Virginia University's Sierra Student Coalition puts pressure on their new University President to reject donations from Massey Coal--which has a long history of Environmental Destruction & abysmal labor practice (including enlisting Pinkertons to put down one of the largest worker rebellions ever). Along with Non-Violent Direct Actions throughout Appalachia, their petition seeks to challenge the Green & White-washed image of Massey Coal & its involvement & control of academic institutions.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - December 9, 2009 - At 11:00 AM, delegates from
the West Virginia University Sierra Student Coalition presented over
1,000 petition signatures to university president Jim Clements at his
office in Stewart Hall.
In the petition, faculty, students, and Morgantown residents asked the
university to reject future donations from coal corporation CEOs Bob
Murray and Don Blankenship, and demanded that the WVU College of
Engineering and Mineral Resources chair be named in honor of the
miners who made the ultimate sacrifice, and not Murray, whose criminal
negligence caused their death.
Clements discussed the students' concerns with them, admitted that he
was still "the new guy" in learning how to run the university, and
agreed that future donations should undergo closer ethical scrutiny.
At the event, the WVU SSC issued the following statement.
"As students of West Virginia University and members of the Sierra
Student Coalition, we are greatly disturbed by the political and
financial affiliations of our university. West Virginia University
has received $1.5 million from two corrupt coal company leaders, Don
Blankenship and Bob Murray. Both of these men have threatened the
lives and health of innocent people through their companies'
practices. WVU has even honored Murray by creating a chairmanship in
Blankenship's company, Massey Energy, has come under attack for
building a coal silo at their coal processing plant next to Marsh Fork
Elementary School in southern West Virginia. This plant has worsened
the air quality for children at the school, and a survey conducted in
2005 shows that the children at Marsh Fork experience high rates of
respiratory illnesses and other health problems, and students complain
about strange odors and coal dust inside their school. The Raleigh
County School Board has voted to request funds to build a new school
for the children, but Massey Energy has refused to supply any of the
Massey Energy has also injected over a billion gallons of toxic coal
slurry underground in Mingo County, West Virginia. Now residents of
Mingo County have contaminated groundwater and alarmingly high rates
of gallbladder disease, cancer, mental disorders, and several other
In 2007, one of Bob Murray's mines in Utah collapsed and killed six
workers and three rescuers. This same mine also had 325 safety
violations, 116 of which were said to be "significant and
substantial." The Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Murray
$1.43 million for the violations that directly contributed to their
deaths, but Murray has refused to admit fault for this catastrophe.
So we ask James P. Clements, our university president, that our school
no longer honors or affiliates with these two men. Our school should
set a good example for its students. If our university forms a buddy
system with the crooked, then which institution can be expected to do
the right thing?"
Dan Kim, a university spokesperson, issued the following statement
after the meeting.
"WVU President Jim Clements is in receipt of the Sierra Club petition
presented to him this morning (12-09). He met briefly with the Club's
student leadership and had a very good conversation with them.
As has been reported, this gift was negotiated by the College of
Engineering and accepted through the WVU Foundation.
These officials have made it clear that the gift was given in good
faith from a donor who was appreciative of a University that educated
his sons and is engaged in significant research in mine safety and the
extraction and utilization of coal resources."
The event follows on the heels of a December 7 rally in Charleston
where hundreds came to hear Bobby Kennedy speak out against the
atrocities committed by Blankenship. "Today, Massey Coal is
succeeding in doing what the glaciers couldn't do, which is to cut
down and flatten these landscapes and destroy these ancient forests,"
Kennedy said. "It was God who made these mountains, and it's Don
Blankenship who's cutting them down"
Senator Robert C. Byrd has been openly critical of Don Blankenship as
well. "Such arrogance suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of
their mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly
our children. These are children's lives we are talking about," said
Byrd in a statement on October 7.
The WVU Sierra Student Coalition is a grassroots environmental
organization striving for real improvements in our campus and
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