Students and faculty members are staging an alternative commencement to protest the choice of Rex Tillerson, CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, as commencement speaker at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Peak Oil scholar and educator Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, will give the alternative address on graduation day, May 14, at a location close to the official ceremony.
University officials informed the dissenting student group that any students leaving the official ceremony to listen to Richard Heinberg will not be allowed to return to receive their diplomas. The students are seeking legal assistance to determine if the university is within its rights with this threat.
Faculty member and philosophy professor Roger Gottlieb is one of several professors opposed to the choice of Tillerson as official speaker. He explained his position to the Worcester Telegram: “Clearly, humanity is in a terrible situation with our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s about making a speedy, rational and moral transition. What Exxon has done is to try to slow down that transition.”
In announcing the choice of Tillerson as speaker, WPI recognized ExxonMobil’s support; the corporation has donated some $1.3 million to help fund the university’s K-12 outreach programs in science, technology and math. The Institute noted that some 31 WPI alumni have gone to work at ExxonMobil in the last 10 years.
Last week, The Princeton Review named Worcester Polytechnic as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada for a second year in a row. In its “green guide,” WPI was hailed for its LEED-certified buildings and for its Institute for Energy and Sustainability.
To show your support for the protesters, take a moment to “like” the WPI Students for a Just and Sustainable Future’s “ExxonMobil Doesn’t Speak for Me” Facebook page. Richard Heinberg’s commencement speech will be open to the public.
Photo: Kids, there's a bright future in oil…
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson by William Munoz under Creative Commons license