I was grateful to see Dr Timothy Cooper’s letter to the Packet in support of the two young Just Stop Oil activists Holly Astle and Ethan Paul, who were arrested on Penryn campus a week ago today - just as their peer Greta Thunberg was arrested in London (October 17).

The points Dr Cooper makes about Exeter University’s high profile connections to oil money leave an open question, perhaps, about Falmouth University also being targeted in the same wave of campus actions.

Perplexing as this may seem at first glance, I wonder if it’s actually the addition of a Falmouth University action, carried out by our celebrated illustration alumna and Falmouth Town Council muralist Holly Astle, which best illuminates the systemic nature of the crisis that she and her fellow Just Stop Oil activists were highlighting?

Falmouth University are not in receipt of any donations from Big Oil. They offered a constructive and collaborative response to related campus activism in November 2022, and are currently supporting a new student and staff learning experiment to foster creative responses to the predicament of ongoing climate and ecological destruction.

I’m proud of my employer’s recent record in this area, but the actions we saw across UK campuses last week are calling for something far more fundamental than local improvements to climate curriculum, campus sustainability policies or even institutional divestment from oil money.

The crisis which Holly and Ethan bore witness to on Penryn campus last Wednesday applies to our entire Higher Education system, not just to universities currently in receipt of oil money. Holly, Ethan and their peers are calling on their universities to now stand with them in open resistance to the UK Parliament’s criminal abandonment of their generation by it’s approval – on both sides of the House - of a new wave of licences for the extraction and burning of "every last cupful" of remaining oil and gas deposits within UK territories, in direct contravention of binding national and international legal agreements. 

In calling out universities’ passive complicity with this criminal abandonment of their generation Holly Astle and Ethan Paul deserve our gratitude, our respect and our active support.

The practical and personal consequences for such actions are long term and costly, especially so for those in their twenties. And that’s before the shameless vilification campaign by both government and press.

To own that we well understand why a young person might choose to chuck around a bit of washable paint at a moment like this is not to cast blame for this deepening predicament on individual Vice Chancellors, as if they secretly held the power to solve it but were refusing to.

Of course not. It’s to join Holly and Ethan in calling on their humanity and their active support at a moment of intergenerational crisis. It’s to ask Vice Chancellors and HE professionals at all levels to publicly reject Parliament’s cynical attempts to delegitimise and isolate these young activists as they seek to generate electoral capital out of actively choosing death and despair for the young and for all future generations.

Mat Osmond 

Senior Lecturer Falmouth School of Art

Falmouth University