During the Spring 2018 semester, student organizers across the country fought for a livable climate and future. Throughout the semester, our 34 student led campaigns advocated to stop the sale of bottled water on campus, ban fracking in their communities, and put an end to the use of dangerous herbicides. Each student tailored their campaign to the needs and realities of their community, all while improving access to clean and safe resources.
Here are just some of the inspiring wins from our student organizers:
UC Berkeley is Going Herbicide Free
The campaign to ban herbicides at the University of California - Berkeley made huge progress this semester! Food & Water Watch Student Organizers successfully banned herbicides from the two biggest green spaces on campus and are moving forward with full support for the campaign from their chancellor and groundskeeper.
For Mackenzie, originally from Hawaii, this issue hit especially close to home. Island communities have battled the agricultural industry for years, trying to put an end to their use of toxic chemicals (linked to a range of serious health issues). She felt she had to bring that fight to California.
“Even if they don’t spray that much on campus compared to the agricultural industry, universities in general can set a precedent and start a conversation which can influence the wider world,” Mackenzie said.
Bridget, a molecular environmental biology major raised in an environmentally conscious household, immediately joined and the project gained momentum.
They had work to do in order to make the ban realistic for the groundskeepers, who had limited ability themselves to take on the extra work the herbicides do. So, Mackenzie and Bridget started work days for the sports teams to pick weeds on the courts. They organized mulching projects to rejuvenate the soil, received grants for stickers and signs, and started meeting with faculty and grounds management.
An article written by Mackenzie also caught the eye of Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit whose mission it is to transition to a world free of pesticides. The campus has since received a grant from the organization that will allow for Berkeley to rejuvenate and maintain their green spaces free of these toxic chemicals.
Frack-Free Fight in Illinois
At Loyola University of Chicago, student organizer Megan Frasik raised awareness on campus and in surrounding communities about the dangers of fracking.
In partnership with student groups and Chicago Area Peace Action, Frasik informed students on her campus about the dangers of fracking and the need for transparency on the issue. She hosted multiple events on campus, facilitated volunteer meetings, organized a Food & Water Watch lobby training, and held a documentary screening.
Frasik spent the semester meeting with decision makers to request their support for anti-fracking legislation and moving their community Off Fossil Fuels. She also lobbied elected officials to support SB 3174, a right-to-know fracking bill that would make oil and gas operations in Illinois disclose the chemicals used in their fracking process.
"In order to make the changes you want to see, you need to focus on putting the power in the hands of the people"
Taking Back the Tap with Hydration Stations
Take Back the Tap campaigns at the College of William & Mary, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Rutgers University secured funding for new water bottle refilling stations.
At William & Mary, the Take Back the Tap campaign has existed for about five years, but until this semester was not an officially recognized organization on campus. With this recognition came new opportunities which student organizers Carlyn LeGrant and Olivia Staub took advantage of, securing a $1,500 grant to continue installing hydration stations.
“It makes us feel as though the school is actually taking this issue seriously, and most importantly it gives us a seat at the table,” said LeGrant.
Staub explained how the campaign is constantly trying to engage students on campus. Whether through reusable water bottle give-aways, tabling at school events, or tap water vs. bottled water taste tests, W&M Take Back the Tap is always looking to grow.
“In order to make the changes you want to see, you need to focus on putting the power in the hands of the people,” Staub said.
Students deserve praise for making these impressive changes happen. These campaigns have been growing in number and power to hold their campuses accountable to act on students’ behalf. We can't wait to see what the upcoming school year will bring as students continue to fight for access to clean and safe resources on their campuses!