Student Activism

Climate action plan petition passes 250 signature threshold

“THERE IS NO PLANET B!” was just one of the phrases written across the banner at the Student Sustainability Task Force’s four-hour demonstration on the ’86 Field on Monday. The organization’s petition detailing demands for a “climate action plan” will now be on the agenda of an upcoming Student Senate meeting, since it met the 250 signature threshold outlined in the Bylaws of the Rensselaer Union Student Senate.

Students solicited signatures for the petition during the demonstration and brought the total from 180 at noon to 250 by 4 pm. They also encouraged students to write on a paper banner taped to the sidewalk that was headed with the prompt: “Why not be more sustainable?” By 4 pm, the banner was full of statements that ranged from specific initiatives that Rensselaer and the United States government should take, to how each individual can play a part in lessening the negative effects of climate change.

The two demands made in the petition, which was sponsored by SSTF President Maya Navabi ’20 and written as a group by the task force, are the appointment of a “qualified, full-time staff member to act as Sustainability Director” and the draft of a “Climate Action Plan” that will “detail how the school plans to achieve zero net equivalent carbon emissions by 2030.”

“Considering the looming consequences of anthropogenic global warming, it is the responsibility of every major institution to dramatically cut back their emissions. Many of RPI’s peers have instituted Climate Action Plans to do this,” says the petition. It later claims that the Rensselaer Plan 2024 “makes only a passing mention of sustainability,” and that President Shirley Ann Jackson “has made no specific commitments to sustainability.”

“A plan with specific, achievable, measurable goals would back up our empty rhetoric about sustainability, elevate RPI’s standing among its peers, and serve as an example to other institutions,” the petition continues.

Since the Senate already had its final meeting for the semester, Grand Marshal Meagan Lettko ’20 anticipates discussing the petition as soon as possible in the Fall semester. According to the Bylaws of the Rensselaer Union Student Senate, any petition that reaches the 250 signature threshold within one full calendar year of its posting “shall be placed on the agenda at a Senate meeting occurring within the next fifteen academic days, excluding exam periods.”