On March 22, 400 Gustavus students, faculty, and staff gathered in Christ Chapel to demand changes to the curriculum and overall campus policies to confront climate change. These demands included sustainability education, administrative transparency, infrastructure, divestment from fossil fuels, and investment in renewable energy. Students wrote one hundred and twenty letters directly to President Bergman, who requested to see proof that the community was serious about such action
We now sit over one month later, with no public response.
The Groundswell was an event organized by a dedicated group of students who were not merely answering President Bergman’s call but were following a belief inherent to their identity: we must immediately respond to the threat of climate change if we want an Earth for everyone. This was evident in the emotional investment displayed during the student address at the faculty meeting. To say that the Groundswell attendance met the expectations of its planners is an understatement. As a whole, this event represented a beautiful trend we have witnessed across the world: a group of devoted individuals planned a grassroots movement and, seeing the value in this, others joined the cause, truly believing action would be taken this time. With 400 voices, how could they ignore us?
Unfortunately, this event continues to mirror the pattern of the greater whole. Despite the tears shed as we spoke for our future, the hours we set aside to plan, and the hope we felt on that warm March day, the administration has not shown the slightest indication that they have genuinely acknowledged our work. In the eyes of the administration, all we did has been nothing more than a photo to post on Instagram (#gogusties).
We wouldn’t be surprised if our efforts briefly resurface at the upcoming Nobel Conference to illustrate the community’s actions against climate change. Whether here on the hill or in our nation’s capital, those in control will not heed the call. They will provide a facade of excuses, citing costs or lack of interest as a means to placate us until the issue has once again been forgotten.
Friends, let us take the next step in the sequence. If 120 letters are not enough, let us fill the president’s office with our words. If 400 people taking time from their day is not a show of dedication, then let us fill the administration’s day until they have no choice but to listen. The Gustavus campus has been shut down in response to student activism before, and if that is what the situation necessitates, then we as the students must be prepared to repeat the actions of the past. Do not let your fear of intense activism permit the behavior we have ignored for too long. Besides, our end goal is far from over. Even if we receive words of recognition, this would hardly amount to meaningful action.
Our college prides itself on five pillars: Justice, Excellence, Community, Service, and Faith. To all of you who have supported these by your participation in the Groundswell: thank you for being the change you wish to see in the world. The Groundswell fulfills the tenants that Gustavus grounds itself upon and demonstrates what we can become as an academic institution. To those in the administration who have met us with honest discourse: your efforts are valued and act as an inspiration to the students. To those who have left their head in the ground: shame on you. We are running out of time.
The 55th Nobel Conference is titled “Climate Changed;” and it’s time to take responsibility. As of yet, you have not shown the decency to recognize the people you claim to work for. A speech. A meeting. A policy change. The students have shown their commitment, now you must follow suit. Be brave, it’s time to worry less about reputation and more about climate justice action. This lack of response suggests that students are just numbers. If there is any confusion as to why younger generations are becoming increasingly cynical, look no further than the hexagonal building on our campus. We shouldn’t need to ask you to support our future
For those of you still reading, please consider coming to the Environmental Action Coalition meetings at 8 p.m. on Mondays in the Dive. These are the students who were at the foundations of the Groundswell. The tent is big, and we welcome anyone who wishes to be part of the solution. March, strike, and protest. Inaction is complacency; complacency is an injustice. In the end, the Earth does not need humanity, but humanity needs the Earth.