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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students camp out for clean energy

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: Front Page

PROTEST: Students gather for SEA’s “Sleep Out” on the Great Lawn. Students spent the night sleeping outdoors to advocate for 100% clean energy in Massachusetts, by 2020.
PHOTO BY Yuan Yao/The Hoot

Students gathered to sleep on the Great Lawn in front of the Shapiro Campus Center Thursday night in a large-scale refusal to sleep in dorms powered by “dirty energy.” Students for Environmental Action (SEA) and the statewide Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) organized the event in order to raise awareness on campus about a bill in the Massachusetts state legislature.

“Every semester, SEA picks a few initiatives to focus its support on,” said Nick Polanco ’13, a leader of the Brandeis SJSF campaign group within SEA. “These past two semesters we picked SJSF,” he explained.

The club is currently working in conjunction with a group called the Leadership Campaign to ensure that the bill, called An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force, gets passed. Through the formation of an “Emergency Task Force,” it would ensure that 100 percent of the electricity used throughout the state of Massachusetts comes from renewable energies by 2020.

“[The bill] is currently in the Massachusetts legislature, and its being held up in a joint House-Senate committee,” Polanco explained. “So we’re trying to apply the pressure.”

Attendees of the event not only raised awareness of energy issues in Massachusetts, they also signed a petition to pass the bill that will be delivered to the state legislature, called House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate Representative John Binienda (D–17th-Worcester) to ask them to support the bill.

Attendees also had the opportunity to sign up for a future sleep out on the Cambridge Commons, which is planned for March 28 and 29.

Musical performances by Up the Octave and Me & My Friends from Jazz Band took place throughout the night.

“A lot of the different college groups do sleep outs on their campuses,” explained Matt Gabrenya ’13, vice president of SEA and an organizer of the event. He listed Harvard, Tufts and Williams College as examples.

“There was a sleep out in February in Amherst, and we drove out there,” Polanco said. “And there have been ones in Cambridge and Boston Commons, so it’s been happening.”

“Over 200 students attended a lot of them, from all over the sate,” Gabrenya added, “including Brandeis.”

Amelia Lavranchuk ’12, was at Thursday’s sleep out, but she also attended one on the Boston Commons last semester. “If we do something here that seems impossible and it works, the people will see and it will inspire change elsewhere,” she explained.

This is not SEA’s first effort to bring clean energy to Brandeis. About a month ago, the club helped turn on solar panels on the roof of Gosman, which supply 10 percent of the gym’s energy.

Hopefully, last night’s event will “get attendance up for the next sleep out [and] make people aware of what SJSF is doing,” Polanco said.