PNC talks policy with student protesters
Penn, Temple students challenge the bank’s ties to the funding of mountaintop removal
January 24, 2012, 12:23 am · Updated January 25, 2012, 11:29 pm·
Justin Cohen | DP
The ongoing movement against mountaintop removal took a big leap yesterday by securing a private meeting with top PNC Bank executives.
Penn and Temple University are among 37 schools that partner with the Pennsylvania-based bank. Penn has had a long-standing relationship with PNC, which offers many resources for student banking.
On Monday, the Penn Community Against Mountaintop Removal and its Temple counterpart met with bank executives privately and conducted a press conference afterwards.
They have campaigned against PNC since early September for its investment in a company involved with mountaintop removal — a method of coal mining that the groups say is both cheap and damaging to the environment.
The Penn and Temple branches of the movement plan to pressure students, universities and PNC itself to enact change, according to Russell Trimmer, Penn Community Against MTR member and Wharton senior. They are formulating a plan to have students remove their money from PNC. While this plan is still developing, they suggest transferring funds to the Student Federal Credit Union — the other financial institution that partners with Penn.
“It’s clear PNC won’t make changes to their portfolio without outside pressure,” Danny Teich, Temple Community Against MTR member and Temple senior, said in a press conference. The PNC representatives emphasized the need for diversity of investments as an argument for backing MTR, Teich added.
They also want to reach out to other universities that have contractual relationships with the bank, said College sophomore Penny Jennewein, a Penn Community Against MTR member.
“Soon there will be 35 other schools standing with us,” Trimmer said.
“PNC is aware that being green is marketable to our generation, and they advertise themselves as such,” Pallavi Podapati, Penn Community Against MTR member and College junior, said. “But for them to finance a form of coal extraction that blows up mountains, displaces communities and poisons the environment is not green.”
Three Temple students, part of the Temple Community Against MTR, were arrested last December while participating in a marching protest into the bank’s lobby.
Ethan Jury, a Temple senior, participated in the protest that demanded the Temple administrators meet with the group.
“Within the first five minutes, the police tried to [kick] us out,” Jury said. “We sat down, linked arms and read our statement.”
After three warnings, Jury and two others were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, failure to disperse and defiant trespassing. They remained in jail for 22 hours and paid $200 in legal fees. Though not officially affiliated, Occupy Philadelphia paid bail for the three students, according to Jury.
Podapati explained that Philadelphia is directly connected to MTR. Philadelphia gets its coal energy from Kentucky, the state with the highest amount of MTR.
The Undergraduate Assembly has been working with the Penn Community Against MTR. They offered to discuss a resolution on behalf of the group, according to Podapati.
While agreeing that the UA had been helpful, Trimmer was dissatisfied with the results.
“It’s not an effective way of expressing student power,” he said.
I Love Mountains Day — a national movement sponsored by residents of Kentucky for the Commonwealth protesting against MTR — will fall on Feb. 14, according to Podapati. The two Communities Against Mountaintop Removal are discussing plans for the day.