Worcester- There’s a storm brewing on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) over the invitation by the administration to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to deliver this year’s commencement speech on May 14.
According to WPI’s Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), ExxonMobil, the world’s largest private oil company and a major funder of climate deniers, has given over $1.3 million to the school. The invitation appears to have more to do with future funding aspirations than aspirational future vision.
After a decision by WPI’s President Dennis Berkey to prevent protesting students from receiving diplomas drew negative media attention, Berkey withdrew the threat and agreed to endorse an alternate commencement speech by Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. Invited by SJSF, Heinberg will deliver from the main stage directly following Tillerson’s address.
“Richard Heinberg’s work is a powerful symbol of our wishes for WPI: a university which, in line with its budding green image, chooses to honor someone with leadership and vision, rather than a baron of the past, a force of the status quo.” – SJSF Leadership
However, the fact remains that the CEO of the world’s most profitable company, one that has destroyed entire ecosystems around the globe, will be addressing the next generation of parents, thinkers and leaders.
Protesters, whose ranks will be swelled by organizations including 350.org and a number of Boston/Worcester area allies, have vowed to oppose Tillerson’s speech directly.