Graffiti calling for U.Va. to divest from fossil fuel companies found chalked around Central Grounds

It is unclear who is responsible for the graffiti as of press time

Messages including “DIVEST UVA,” “PEOPLE + PLANET over PROFIT,” “UVA PROFITS OFF DESTRUCTION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT,” “F—k UVA SAVE THE PLANET” and “DIVEST UVA from fossil fuel companies” were found graffitied in chalk across Central Grounds Saturday morning.

It is not clear who is responsible for the graffiti or when it was committed.

Several reporters from The Cavalier Daily found the walls of the walkway between West Lawn and East Lawn on the south side of the Rotunda tagged with graffiti around 11:45 a.m. Saturday. The graffiti was written in red chalk. When the reporters returned to the walkway around 1:20 p.m. Saturday, the graffiti had been washed away.

That same afternoon, similar messages were chalked on columns outside Bryan Hall, on the brick walls outside Bryan Hall, on the sidewalk between Maury and Minor Halls, on a sidewalk near the Amphitheater, on the Remembrance Wall outside Newcomb Hall, on the walls outside Clemons Library, on tables outside Clemons, on the statue outside Clemons dedicated to James Rogers McConnell — a University student who died in World War I — and on stairs between Clemons and Newcomb, among other locations.

The graffiti around Clemons, Newcomb, the Amphitheater, and Maury, Minor and Bryan Halls has not been washed away as of press time.

The incidents come just after the Board of Visitors approved the University’s sustainability plan Friday, which includes an arrangement with the College of William and Mary to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and be fossil-fuel-free by 2050. That meeting was held in the Rotunda.

Several student and local organizations have called on the University to “divest” — to remove its investments in the fossil fuel industry — citing the impact fossil fuels have on the environment. 

Joyce Cheng, logistics facilitator of the Charlottesville chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, an environmental advocacy group, and a fourth-year College student, said her organization was not involved in writing any of the messages and does not know anything about who did.

“VSEC has actually pursued a divestment campaign in the past, but it ended in 2017 and we have not actively pursued divestment since then, as our focus has shifted to community-based anti-pipeline advocacy,” Cheng said in a message to The Cavalier Daily. “However, we do believe that UVA should divest from exploitative, extractive and destructive fossil fuel companies.”

Cheng said her organization supports the sustainability plan and goals approved by the Board to achieve carbon neutrality and eliminate fossil fuel use.

“We are glad that the Board has decided to take ambitious action on reducing UVA’s greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning away from fossil fuels,” Cheng said.

Jack Mills, a first-year College student and head of communications for the Charlottesville hub of Sunrise, a youth climate action movement, said he does not believe anyone in his organization was involved in tagging the graffiti and does not know who might have done it.

But he said he believes the postings reflect the views of his organization, which advocates divestment. Sunrise held a climate strike on the steps of the Rotunda Friday.

“Sunrise believes not only in environmental activism but environmental justice,” Mills said. “The coal industry’s proceedings and business practices cement the low-income status of communities and disproportionately pollutes their water and air supply.”

University spokesperson Wes Hester has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

Patrick Roney contributed to this article.

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