Some UBC students have informed us they will join global climate strike activities on Sept. 27. We expect some members of the UBC community will choose to participate in the climate strike to draw attention to the climate crisis.
This strike is a student-led initiative and we acknowledge that many of our students and community members care deeply about this issue. It is inspiring to see so many students take part in shaping their future and use the power of the collective voice to raise awareness of climate change and the need for immediate action.
While we recognize the importance of climate justice and the critical need to tackle climate change, it is also important the university remain open to ensure continuance of the academic mission.
We encourage students who plan to participate in this action to discuss it with their instructors to see whether arrangements can be made to receive missed course content or to make-up missed exams, quizzes, or other assignments. Students should be familiar with the guidance that may be provided in their course syllabi.
Students may also apply for an academic concession – more on this can be found in the UBC Calendar or on this website: https://students.ubc.ca/enrolment/academic-learning-resources/academic-concessions
Faculty members and academic departments may elect to support the climate strike in ways consistent with their academic principles, which may mean making the decision to cancel classes. In such cases, we hope that faculty will inform students in their classes in advance of the reason for the action. If staff wish to participate in the strike and rally, they may request leave such as time off without pay or vacation time from their supervisor.
We consulted with the University’s two senates as they hold ultimate authority over the Academic Calendar. The UBC Vancouver Senate’s agenda committee has stated that while it cannot support a universal suspension of classes on such short notice (due to operational and accreditation requirements in many programs), it supports participation wherever possible, be that in classes, in related university activities, or in events beyond the university that day.
While this is an important day globally for students to exercise their voice, it’s also a valuable opportunity to reflect on some of the fantastic work by university community members. UBC students have a long history of promoting sustainability. Here are a few examples:
- Common Energy is UBC’s largest student-run sustainability organization working to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the UBC community. Common Energy mobilizes six teams – Zero Waste, Food Choice & Climate Change, Mugshare UBC, Emerging Green Builders, and Student Energy – to engage in dynamic and innovative ways to create a more sustainable UBC community.
- UBC Sustainability Collective, founded in 2017, is a collective of student organizations, clubs and groups that advocate for bold university leadership on sustainability. They organized a student-led climate Town Hall in March 2018 which was attended by more than 300 students and faculty. Learn more here.
- There are dozens of other important UBC sustainability clubs and associated groups that continue to make a huge difference for our community. You can learn more about them all if you visit this site:https://sustain.ubc.ca/get-involved/student-group
We are proud of our students, faculty and staff who have long been champions for the fight against climate change. We are pleased this call-to-action is resonating for our community – we applaud the students and the UBC community for their actions.
The need for this action is something deeply shared by the UBC administration, both in the past and into the future. As a global leader in sustainability for more than two decades, UBC is also working to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. We would encourage you to review UBC’s wide range of sustainability initiatives and achievements here at https://sustain.ubc.ca/
While there are many examples of our community’s great work in this area, here are a few that particularly come to mind:
- We have a wide-range of policies, plans and programs aimed at climate change including our Campus as a Living Lab initiative, where we are making great strides in transforming our campus into a vibrant and complete sustainable community and, importantly, we are working at a scale that is interesting to other communities. This includes supporting researchers who are studying – and operations staff who are implementing – new approaches to UBC’s energy generation and distribution systems.
- UBC’s Climate Action Plan, established in 2010, has enabled the University to deliver on bold targets for reducing greenhouse gasses. This plan has guided the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses in its ongoing transition toward a low-carbon future.
- These efforts have paid off with UBC recently being ranked first in the world for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and first in Canada for making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, according to Times Higher Education.
Still, there is always more work to be done. Through energy conservation, community engagement, and incremental improvements in “green” methods in building construction and renovation, we look forward to continuing to advance the university toward its goal of achieving net zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, we want to commend our students, staff and faculty for their hard work in this area and their ongoing commitment to combating climate change.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice Chancellor