Over the past two and a half weeks, students of the University of Illinois’ UIUC Beyond Coal campaign have acted on climate by collecting over 4,200 petition signatures in hopes of placing a coal divestment referendum on the bi-annual UIUC student ballot. The result of a semester’s worth of bureaucratic dealings, it was while still at Power Shift that our campaign received the final go ahead email to begin petitioning for our approved referendum. We needed to receive petition signatures from 7% of the U of I’s 43,400 students (3,038 for those without a calculator handy) by November 8th in order to have full divestment from the “Filthy 15” coal companies voted on by the student body.
Upon returning to Champaign-Urbana, Il from Pittsburgh, UIUC Beyond Coal’s motley crew of student activists hit the ground running, securing 1300 petitions within the first week. Efforts included canvassers on the U of I main quad, making announcements at events, speaking in front of classes, visiting sororities and fraternities, and doing just about anything to collect over 3,000 petition signatures within the given timeline.
After two and a half weeks, the total seemed questionable. During the group’s final meeting before the petitions had to be turned in, members were instructed to bring all petitions for a final tally. With one person counting the over 200 sheets of paper through the duration of the meeting, a collective sigh and subsequent cheer were released when it was announced that the final petition total was 4,238.
Our work, however, has not ended yet. With the petition drive behind us, we now await the vote taking place the 13th and 14th of November. We will use the next few days to mount a get out the vote campaign to encourage our student body to vote “yes” to divest. Until the results are announced this Friday as to whether we’ve attained majority support, we’ll be flyering, chalking, and talking til our time runs out!