Laura Bruce, an 18-year-old senior at Farmville’s Prince Edward High School, experienced college life firsthand this week by joining University of Mary Washington students for a sit-in.

The members of the DivestUMW club want the university to rid its endowment of investments in fossil fuel companies. Some of them have been sitting in George Washington Hall for 13 days.

The protest began March 26 with 20 people sitting outside University of Mary Washington President Rick Hurley’s office.

Bruce joined the group Sunday. She was familiar with the club from earlier environmental events and said she wanted to join the sit-in to learn more about how the group is organized.

While Bruce will most likely attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, she’s one of many prospective students who have visited the Fredericksburg campus over the last week, and who have heard DivestUMW’s message.

DivestUMW club members have specific demands for this sit-in: that the school’s board of visitors create a subcommittee to study divestment and commit to pulling all of the university’s investments in the coal industry by 2016. The board decided earlier in March not to create the subcommittee.

Last week, DivestUMW co-founder Zakaria Kronemer was invited by the school to speak to prospective students at a panel discussion in the school’s Anderson Center.

“I’ve learned a lot at UMW,” he said. “But one of the unfortunate lessons has been that the principles of honor, integrity and community are not fully embodied by those who govern this institution.”

DivestUMW member Sarah Kinzer said multiple prospective students came up to the group after the presentation to ask about the cause.

She said the group’s contact with the board and President Hurley, however, has been limited.

She said that after the initial demands were made, there has not been much communication with the board or President Hurley.

“There is no place for student input in the decision-making process of the university, even when these decisions will directly and severely impact the lives of the students as a climate crisis continues to become an impending threat on this generation,” Kronemer said.

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​Lindley Estes: 540.735-1976

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