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BC Agrees to Conversations With Climate Justice

Boston College agreed on Thursday to meetings and ongoing discussions with Climate Justice at BC (CJBC) in response to the group’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Day protest, in which CJBC members delivered a list of demands regarding BC’s sustainability practices and called for the University to divest from fossil fuels, according to an email sent to CJBC from Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore.

“We must point out that we are disappointed that no clear targets or goals have yet been defined and we hope you know our intention to set them through our meetings with you and the other administrators,” Kyle Rosenthal, CJBC member and CSOM ’21, replied to Moore in an email. “We look forward to hearing from you and moving forward together, but we reiterate that we will still do everything possible to ensure climate justice on this campus until it is fully achieved.”

CJBC said in its demands that if the University did not publicly respond or indicate intention to meet with the group, it would begin engaging in “near-constant” protests, hunger strikes, and die-ins, as well as call for possible legal remedies and inquiries by Church institutions into BC’s status as a Jesuit Catholic university. 

Rosenthal and Aaron Salzman, CJBC member and MCAS ’20, met with Moore and Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Formation Tom Mogan on Monday to discuss CJBC’s demands, according to the email.

“Thank you for meeting with AVP Mogan and me on Monday,” Moore said in the email. “We, too, felt it was a good meeting and that we made some progress toward better understanding your positions as outlined in the February 13 letter. … We look forward to continuing to work together in the spirit of our Jesuit, Catholic values.”

Moore said in the email that the University had agreed to four items: an ongoing dialogue between CJBC and administrators; a meeting with Chief Investment Officer John Zona, Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn, Vice President for Mission and Ministry Jack Butler, Mogan, and Moore; a conversation with BC Facilities on sustainability concerns with regard to construction; and a discussion on increased student involvement through current sustainability efforts.

“While some positive steps were taken today, we are disappointed that major players including Fr. Leahy and trustees are still not a part of this conversation, though we hope that they recognize the urgency of action and take into account that our efforts are intended to help our university become a leader,” CJBC said in a Thursday statement.

CJBC still noted BC’s response as a step forward, saying that agreeing to meetings and conversations between students and administrators is an important first for the University.

“We appreciate the sincere effort made today and believe that it will lead to a variety of outcomes, and, ideally, a commitment to divestment from fossil fuels,” the statement reads.

In addition to the creation of a committee to evaluate BC’s investments in the context of Jesuit values, CJBC’s original demands called for the University to create a climate action plan, reject funding from the Koch Foundation, and not pursue litigation concerning Webster Woods. The petition also asked University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., to publicly acknowledge “human-caused climate change as a major social justice and pro-life issue.” 

In a response statement sent to The Heights on Feb. 19, the University rejected divestment, noting that BC relies on fossil fuels for its power and that the endowment is only intended to financially support the University, not pursue social or political change. The statement also argued that the best way to respond to climate change would be to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability, and it pointed out BC’s current sustainability practices.

“The University’s position is that the best way to respond to the important issue of climate change is for all members of the BC community–along with corporations, organizations, and individuals–to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability,” the statement said.

Featured Image Courtesy of Kyle Rosenthal / Climate Justice

March 2, 2020