University of Oregon administration ordered campus operations to remove a large sign Wednesday morning that the Divest UO campaign has kept outside Johnson Hall in recent weeks.
The sign, which said, “Off Fossil Fuels: We call on President [Michael] Schill to urge the UO foundation to divest from fossil fuels,” had adorned the administration’s lawn for 28 days.
Selena Blick, a member of the Divest UO movement, spoke with campus operations workers as they removed the sign on Wednesday.
“They were clearly just told to do their job,” Blick said. “They didn’t know what policies we were breaking.”
According to Blick, the policies in question had to do with advertising and signs that were propped against structural elements of buildings.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the administration just wants the sign gone, and they’re trying to find ways to prove that we’re not allowed to have it there,” she said.
Administration officials disagree.
University spokesperson Tobin Klinger said the removal of the sign was a matter of consistency and practice and had nothing to do with content.
“We routinely remove signs across campus,” Klinger said. “The university has a lot of locations where students are able to share their message and we [have] provided ample opportunity for the Divest students’ message to be heard.”
The sit-in is still taking place in the Johnson Hall lobby and is entering its fifth week. Discussion and debate about whether the UO should take steps to divest from fossil fuels continues.
Divest UO has responded to the removal by reaching out to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to research its free speech rights in this case.
Klinger, on the other hand, praised the university for creating an environment that fosters discussion and debate about the issues of the day.
“It comes down to the concept of an active protest,” Klinger said. “This is not an issue that relates to any kind of specific messaging. It has everything to do with facilities use.”