“Talk is cheap”: Students call out university’s poor response to climate action


Courtesy of the Student Sustainability Council and Sunrise CWRU

Standing in front of Adelbert Hall, members from the Student Sustainability Council and Sunrise CWRU work together to push for greater administrative efforts in this fight against climate change.

Grace Johnson, News Editor

Last week, on Feb. 13, students from the Case Western Reserve University Student Sustainability Council (SSC) and Sunrise CWRU organizations released a statement calling into question the efficacy of the administrative response to climate change. Signs were hung, chalk murals on the sidewalk were painted and attention was called for President Eric Kaler and others to change their approach to tackling climate change at CWRU.

This demonstration took place after a letter was delivered to Vice President of Campus Planning and Facilities Management Dean Tufts, which “called for administrators to act on six specific climate action priorities.” Following this, students from these two organizations hung a banner reading “TALK IS CHEAP. CLIMATE ACTION NOW,” outside of Adelbert Hall, which houses the offices of CWRU officials. 

This demonstration and updated letter was written in response to a call to action during the fall 2022 semester, originally sent to CWRU administration in September. The letter comments on CWRU’s 2020 Update to the “University Climate Action Plan (CAP)” and its perceived inadequacies. It says that “the CAP update doubles down on a slew of greenwashing tactics and false solutions such as manipulative accounting of emissions, an emphasis on individual behavior change and a reliance on carbon offsets.” In November, Tufts did respond to these organizations, saying, “Like you, we want to preserve the health and sustainability of our campus and our planet. Working together, I believe we can.”

However, members of the SSC and Sunrise CWRU have since expressed their frustrations with the lack of followthrough from CWRU administration, leading to the recent demonstration.

The more recent letter demanded the reallocation of $4 million a year for “energy efficiency improvements,” as well as the hiring of three full-time administrators for the Office of Energy and Sustainability to ensure that these changes are followed through on. Other goals of this statement included demanding RTA passes for all campus personnel and the creation of a “climate action council,” among others. These demands have all been expressed to administration through these organizations over time, including the fall semester.

Leaders of both Sunrise CWRU and SSC have expressed concern over the lack of action from administrations, with the chair for SSC Abby Blaize stating, “We see through the administration’s weak climate goals and vague plans for how to meet them. CWRU students demand the administration take the basic steps to decarbonize the university’s operations by investing directly into our community.”

Many students have also remained committed to the “Green New Deal for CWRU,” which calls for a complete overhaul of the current energy and educational systems in order to create a more sustainable campus. This includes a university powered entirely by renewable energy and an overall push toward educational and research opportunities in the climate action sphere. Campaign lead for Sunrise CWRU Ritu Havaldar says that, “Universities of this caliber have a vital responsibility to reduce emissions at a scale that individual actions cannot. More and more of the CWRU community understands the need for a revision of our current climate action plan and supports a Green New Deal.”

This is not the first time these organizations have partnered up in support of a change in policy. In fall 2022, they co-sponsored Climate Action Week along with the CWRU Climate Action Network (CWRU CAN), which was a week full of talks, activities and outreach programs. Through those events, they intend to educate and raise awareness on climate change and how it affects both the CWRU community and the world. However, those who were a part of Climate Action Week recognize that climate activism must go farther than just seven days, and that it requires administrative efforts along with student activism.

The goal of SSC and Sunrise CWRU, through these demonstrations and the recent letter was to persuade administrators to take their talk seriously—to practice what they preach. Whether they do so remains to be seen.