The USC Academic Senate passed a resolution expressing support for student activism and urging the University to improve sustainability initiatives at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
Students from the Environmental Core, a club at USC focused on environmental advocacy, were present to show their support. USC associate professor Darren Ruddell, the co-chair of the Academic Senate Sustainability Committee, invited the students to the meeting to discuss the resolution.
The resolution is a follow-up to the ECore’s “Do Better SC” rally on April 8 and a formal letter sent to President C. L. Max Nikias by ECore representatives, the Environmental Student Assembly and the Undergraduate Student Government.
The resolution includes a copy of the letter and the University response from Executive Director of Administrative Operations Mark Ewalt.
“With the guidance, support and dedication of all the hard-working committee members and all the students, faculty and staff members who have been involved with Sustainability 2020 over the past three short years, the University has been able to design, fund and implement numerous high-impact projects and initiatives that speak directly to the concerns you identified in your letter,” Ewalt said in his response in the resolution.
The resolution recognizes the “important progress” the University has made on the Sustainability 2020 Plan, but calls for further action. The senate previously proposed the Sustainability Strategy 2030 in March 2017, which has gained the support of the Staff Assembly, the Graduate Student Government and USG.
“The Academic Senate reaffirms its support for the Sustainability Strategy 2030, expresses its support for the students and their advocacy, and joins with them in urging President Nikias to make USC a leader in this momentous struggle for the future of the planet,” the resolution states.
The Sustainability Strategy 2030 has not yet been approved by administration, which worries Philline Qian, the USG Sustainability Advocacy Director.
“There is no actual endorsement from President Nikias on [Sustainability Strategy 2030],” Qian said. “It shows lack of top-leadership at our University that there’s no clear action plan for after 2020, which is in one year.”
Members of the Senate asked the students present at the meeting questions about the student body. USC professor Jeremy Kagan asked the students how to engage what seems to be a politically inactive campus.
ECore director Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, a sophomore majoring in psychology, told the senate that many students are interested in sustainability or activism at USC, but that they may not take the initiative to start different movements.
“A lot of students really need something to jump on to,” Shaw-Wakeman said. “They are interested; they may not be ready to march, but they’re ready to sign and they are ready to go to meetings and to listen.”
Shaw-Wakeman suggested the University provide students with a way to help and be more “intentionally transparent” by sharing information with students.
Shaw-Wakeman and Qian said they are both grateful to have the attention and support of the Academic Senate. Qian said that having support from different groups from the University strengthens their voices and that students and faculty should work “in tandem.”
Shaw-Wakeman said she is encouraged by the senate’s attention and is hopeful that the organization can enact change on campus.
“From the student perspective, sometimes it does seem we’re screaming into a void,” Shaw-Wakeman said. “When you know that people who have the power to make change are listening to you then it means you’re going to keep trying to make change.”