Op-Ed: A Letter from Sustainable Student Action

Dear President Sundborg,

We know you’ve now seen your giant likeness hanging alongside that of President Trump. We know that it wasn’t your dream to be associated with our new president but we assure you it was with the best intentions. You see, many students of Seattle University do not see President Trump as their leader nor do they place any hope in him to make changes that are not regressive and damaging to their communities.


PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSTAINABLE STUDENT
PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSTAINABLE STUDENT

A divest from fossil fuels poster hangs in the Student Center.


Though not the only issue in which we oppose President Trump, climate change is one of the most glaring areas of his incompetence. Not only does he publicly discredit climate science as “a hoax,” he also put several of the fossil fuel industry’s worst players in positions of power. The companies that are endangering Indigenous peoples, polluting air and water, and advancing the warming of the Earth are now directly in control of the governmental structures meant to regulate them. They will have their way in reversing years of emissions reduction, restrictions on exploration, and protection of people and environment. We think you’ll agree that we cannot leave the critical decisions concerning climate change, environmental protection, and justice for Indigenous communities to President Trump or his Cabinet, not to mention the Republican controlled House, Senate, and soon, Supreme Court.

So why then, you might ask, is your picture posted in such close proximity to Donald Trump’s? Your location next to Trump is not one of association but of juxtaposition. One of the presidents on those banners believes in climate change and as you can imagine, we are under no illusion that we are going to convince Trump to take action against something he does not believe in nor are we going to influence the unelected officials who are accountable to the fossil fuel industry first and foremost.

You as our president can lead Seattle University and, in time, all 28 American Jesuit universities towards a just transition from fossil fuels. Seattle University could in fact be the first of many American Jesuit universities to take an unmistakable and concrete step against Trump’s climate denialism and lead the 27 others to make a similar commitment. With your influence and position of leadership, we need you to take action.

In our time here as students we have seen you grow into the kind of person who spoke at this past MLK Unity Day of “the urgency of now,” and the need to constantly question what one does and believes. Your students feel the urgency of now with climate change and they’ve been organizing for divestment for the past 5 years. Those communities facing the dangers of oil extraction and transportation as well as those who are already being forced from their homelands due to rising waters— they feel the urgency of now. While we are thankful for the steps taken by the Socially Responsible Investment Taskforce and the new committee coming out of it, ten years, at least 4 of which will be under Trump’s fossil fuel expansionism, is far too long.

Our question to you is, with the election of our other president, with his nomination of fossil fuel-friendly businessmen and politicians, with the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, and with the violence being done to communities in the wake of that expansion, if not now then when is a better time to divest?

This is not only a rhetorical question but also a call. We call on you, as our president, to publicly state your support for committing to divest Seattle University’s endowment in fossil fuel companies and rejecting Trump’s fossil fuel extraction policy. If there was any hope in governmental action on transitioning away from fossil fuels with the previous administration, it is now gone and left to institutions such as ours, who believe in and are guided by a mission.

At MLK Unity Day you spoke to his teachings concerning the urgency of now and its connection to the legacy you will leave for this university. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I think it is clear, between Trump and the people endangered by the fossil fuel industry, on which side your students are. Whose side are you on?

With urgency and resolution,

Your students
Sustainable Student Action

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