News : Faculty


Fossil Free Exhibition Sheds Light on Student Activism

The latest UC Santa Barbara Library Exhibit praises the power of student activism to create environmental change. Located in the Ocean Gallery, this exhibition engages students with the archival blueprints of the Fossil Free UC grassroots campaign. In 2019, the University of California Board of Regents announced its divestment from fossil fuels, a direct effect of the multi-campus student activism efforts that had taken place within the seven years prior. Students across the UC system engaged in demonstrations, face-to-face conversations, and other activist techniques. Students also inspired the UC Academic Senate to approve a memorial to the Regents encouraging them to divest from fossil fuels. This exhibit honors the work of past student activists and empowers students who walk the campus today.

Exhibition co-curators Professor Mona Damluji and Andrea Serna hold close ties to the campaign. Professor Damluji arrived at UCSB in 2016 and contributed to the interdisciplinary program known as the Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar focused on Energy Justice in Global Perspective. Through this program, Damluji collaborated with many students engaged in the Fossil Free campaign who were graduating and advancing to new chapters in their lives. With concern that institutional knowledge would be lost as students graduated, Damluji set out to archive the movement with the help of Andrea Serna and the UCSB Library’s Department of Special Research Collections. Andrea Serna took on the role of Project Coordinator, cataloging documents and speaking directly with student activists. Serna explained her desire to assemble the archive but allow the activists to tell their story themselves. This is evident throughout the exhibit as quotes from students, outlines of popular chants, and a video created during the Cheadle Hall occupation are at the forefront of the display.

This interactive exhibition allows students to engage with history in a format outside of the digital archive. Across the gallery is a title banner reflecting the demonstrative signage commonly employed during the movement. The exhibit utilizes a horizontal timeline which focuses on significant achievements of the campaign and visually expresses the dedication students put forth to enact change. Additionally, this exhibition reflects the importance of archival data in honoring and preserving UC Santa Barbara’s history. Inspired by the archives of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, this collection immortalizes the positive impact collective student action can have on fighting for environmental justice. Ultimately, the Fossil Free UC Exhibition provides students with empowerment and a sense of hope that they have the ability to create positive change on an institutional level.

Written By Elle Viefhaus, UCSB Sustainability Communications and Outreach Intern