At first, this seemed like a positive development.
The occupation’s fundamental goal, after all, was to earn a meeting with Schill in order to personally deliver their three remaining demands: divest from fossil fuels, democratize the board of trustees, and disarm the University of Oregon Police Department. In a public meeting on the steps of Johnson Hall, Schill seemed receptive to their demands and quickly agreed to hear the activist’s out.
But an audio recording of the meeting obtained by Double Sided Media shows that the UO President pushed back on all of the protesters’ demands.
Several of the activists–none of whom identified themselves by name on the recording–joined Schill and Dr. R. Kevin Marbury, the UO’s Vice President of Student Affairs, for a reading of their demands. They also asked Schill several questions throughout their nearly hour-long meeting.
When asked whether he would commit to divesting the UO Foundation from investments in fossil fuels, Schill said that such a decision was not up to him. He also said that he does not receive investment reports from the Foundation and has no idea where any of its money goes.
And, despite prior statements acknowledging the growing threat of climate change, Schill curtly declined to say whether he would speak out against or work to influence the UO Foundation’s investment strategies.
“I might–I’d have to think about that.” Schill said. “In a conversation with you, I wouldn’t commit myself to doing anything.”
On the activist’s demands to democratize the board of trustees, Schill was more straightforward.
“I think our board is a terrific board,” he said. “I think the people on it are accountable…I know from meeting with them, from talking with them, that they care deeply about the students and all of the University of Oregon… So, no, I would not be at all likely to request that the University lobby in support of reform along the lines that you are suggesting.”
UO’s board of trustees includes two representatives from the timber industry, the Executive Vice President of Columbia Sportswear, and is chaired by Chuck Lillis, a man who allegedly assaulted a protester before a board meeting earlier this year.
On the third demand–disarming the UOPD–Schill was slightly more diplomatic. He flatly rejected the notion that the UOPD would be abolished under his watch, but acknowledged that the University certainly had to reckon with the nationwide movement against the current model of policing.
Schill also claimed that he was in the early stages of making changes to the University’s public safety model, though he did not say what those changes would look like or when they might be revealed.
“My guess is that it will not satisfy what you want,” he said. “And it will not lead to the abolition of the UOPD.”
Following the questioning of Schill, Dr. Marbury added his own responses, which largely echoed Schill’s answers. Dr. Marbury stressed that disarming the UOPD requires input from students and faculty from throughout the University.
“What one student means by ‘disarm’ is not necessarily the same as another student’s idea of ‘disarm,’” Dr. Marbury said. “And we need to be conscious of that.”
Dr. Marbury also backed up Schill’s belief that there would not be any movement of democratizing the board of trustees any time soon.
The last ten minutes were a back-and-forth between Schill, Dr. Marbury, and the activists.
One activist pushed back against Schill’s assertion that the activists would come around on their feelings toward the board of trustees if they took the time to meet with them, noting that Chairman Chuck Lillis literally used his shoulder to shove himself through a protester in order to attend a vote for both a guaranteed tuition plan and a twelve million dollar video scoreboard at Autzen Stadium. The public was not allowed to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was the synthesis of an undemocratic process,” the activist said, referring to the March board of trustees meeting.
“Well, I’m going to have to disagree with you on that,” Schill said. “And that’s okay. One of the great things about the United States is that we can disagree with each other. That’s an element of democracy.”