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Students protest closed-door meeting on fossil fuel-funded research

‘That they literally bolted the door on students shows they are scared of what students and academics actually think’

On Thursday 9/2, student activists attempted to gain entry to a closed-door seminar held between the University Council and select academics on the subject of research funding, with the students claiming that the invitees exclusively had “close ties with the fossil fuel industry.”

Protesting the event from outside Old Schools, the students leafleted and talked with the public, with one of their placards reading “Would you let Marlboro sponsor lung research?”

Placards tied to the railings of Old Schools (Image credits: Cambridge Climate Justice)

Though described by the university as a direct response to the recent failed motion for fossil free research, Cambridge Climate Justice (CCJ) and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) believe that the event was “designed explicitly to represent the interests of Big Oil.”

Two students, who had purchased tickets to the seminar, attempted to enter but said they were turned away at the door, being told that it was a staff-only event. They say students were then prevented from entering the site, even after the meeting had ended.

One of these students said: “We arrived at Old Schools hoping to have a productive conversation with the staff attending the seminar but before we could even reach the entrance, the gates were closed in our faces and bolted shut.

“The University was so keen to avoid engaging with the science, they were even willing to shut their own staff out as the bolted gate meant even staff with key fobs couldn’t enter the building.”

The protestors expressed their frustration at being left out of the discussion, and one protestor attempted to engage with the meeting attendees through the venue window by speaking through a megaphone. This protestor felt that student voices were going unheard, alleging: “Rather than answering our questions, the staff on the other side of the glass literally laughed in our faces.”

A protestor outside Old Schools (Image credits: Cambridge Climate Justice)

A spokesperson for CCJ articulated their belief that the university’s actions show that the campaign for Fossil Free Research is advancing, and that “the university is playing catch-up.”

They continued: “The fact that only a handful of academics attended clearly demonstrates the university’s failed attempts to win support for pro-fossil fuel perspectives. That they literally bolted the door on students shows that they are scared of what students and academics actually think.”

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.