Sitting in for Robinson Forest

Protest in response to denied meeting with Todd

About 15 people chanting “Save Robinson Forest” made their way outside UK President Lee Todd’s office yesterday afternoon where they sat for more than two hours in protest of logging 800 acres of university owned-land in Eastern Kentucky.

Chris Schimmoeller, of Kentucky Heartwood, said the sit-in was a response to Todd’s refusal to meet with students and community members concerned about the logging.

“Lee Todd has refused to meet with us, and he refused to let us meet with the Board of Trustees,” Schimmoeller said. “This is our way of responding to that.”

The sit-in was a collaborative effort of the student environmental group UK Greenthumb, Kentucky Heartwood, the Sierra Club and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said Taylor Shelton, a geography and political science junior. The environmental community of UK has not given up on stopping the logging, Shelton said.

“We have not resigned ourselves,” Shelton said. “We hope to force the president to take some sort of action in preserving university lands.”

The group sat on the floor outside Todd’s office, holding signs with statements like “Top 20 in real ecological stewardship.”

Todd’s Chief of Staff Douglas Boyd came out to address the group twice, saying he would pass along a written message but would not call Todd or any of the board members. Todd was on his way to the airport, Boyd said, and he could not interrupt him.

Garrett Graddy, a geography graduate student and teaching assistant, spoke with Boyd and told him the group had asked Board of Trustees chairwoman Mira Ball for a meeting.

Ball told them to go through Todd, and when the group requested a meeting with Todd, Graddy said he refused.

“We’re here on the basis that we’ve been denied two meetings,” Graddy said.

“We’ve been trying to follow regulations all fall and are getting nowhere,” Graddy said.

Graddy gave Boyd various petitions, letters from scientists concerning the logging, and a list of questions for Todd and the board members.

Boyd said he “would be glad to pass that along.”

The group demanded a halt on all logging activities in Robinson Forest, but Boyd said they would have to write to the Board of Trustees to achieve that. Boyd told the group they could write a request for a meeting with the board and he would get it to the members.

The group wrote a statement on a sheet of notebook paper and slipped it under Boyd’s door after knocking and seeing that he had left the office.

They then began to call all of the board members to read the statement over the phone as well.

The request demanded a stop to the logging and construction of logging roads until more discussion with representation from both sides was held.

Logging has not started in Robinson Forest, said UK Spokesman Jay Blanton.

“It was thought that this research would start right away, but with concerns raised I’m not sure where we are in this process now,” Blanton said.

He also confirmed that Todd was at an out of state meeting during the sit-in.

Protesters originally said they would stay until they got a response from Todd but left around 4:30 p.m., after they called board members and Boyd left.

The group requested an audience at the Dec. 11 Board of Trustees meeting, and they plan on being present at the Tuesday meeting even if board members do not respond to the request, Schimmoeller said.