Villanovans Protest For Climate Change On Campus



Carlos Prats

Sept. 20, 2019 may have been just another day for many around the world. Go to work, go to the gym, run errands – but to many others, the day was marked by a certain goal in mind: to open the world’s eyes to the detrimental results of climate change and to make everyone realize that our time to make change is becoming ever more fleeting. 

While the 2019 Global Climate Strike was underway around the world, on Villanova’s campus, concerned students and faculty decided to do their part, pushing for the goal of changing how we as a University respond to the epidemic that is the global climate crisis. Noon, Friday saw countless Villanovans gather at the Oreo for the independently led Climate Change Demonstration. Born out of passionate concern, the protest was led by no club or society, but instead, a motley crew of students and faculty, passionate about the climate change issue, and concerned with Villanova’s initiative, or lack thereof, to do its part to create change. In the spotlight for the event was English faculty member, Dr. Jean Lutes, and the Class of 2020’s own, Molly Bonini. 

Dr. Lutes began the event on the microphone, speaking to the detrimental affects of climate change and informing the crowd of pressing issues such as Arctic heating, as her children stood beside, holding signs of protest so evidently seen around the world on Friday during other climate strikes. Lutes also brought up the issue of how the destabilization of the earth has wreaked havoc on lower income destinations around the world, citing the horrors of the very recent Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean and American South. 

Next to speak was Bonini, who outlined the evidence that Villanova is not meeting the expectations of students and faculty on campus when it comes to this specific issue of climate change. In a study presented by Bonini, evidence showed that compared to other schools, Villanova ranks on the lower end of sustainability efforts.

The cornerstone of Bonini’s speech came in the form of two very specific demands: 

1.To push Villanova’s carbon neutrality date from 2050 to 2030.

2.To Enter Power Purchase Agreement for Renewable Energy in 2020.

The first demand, comes after Villanova agreed in 2007, to work towards making our campus carbon neutral by the year 2050. As a little over a decade has passed since this promise, with few results to show for it, concerned parties believe that the issue must be remedied with more aggressive initiatives, as the situation may be too far gone when the world reaches 2050. 

The second demand works to fundamentally change the way we as a university function, for the better. With Villanova being powered entirely by the use of fossil fuels, Bonini states that it is time for the administration to invest in renewable energy resources to power our campus. 

Both Dr. Lutes and Ms. Bonini spoke passionately about the issue they had worked so hard to raise awareness for, sparking a fire within students who held felt the need to support these advocates, by leaving lunches, classrooms and meetings, to show support for changing our campus’ culture and response to climate change. 

“I was nervous to leave class early but I wanted to show our university how important climate change is,” Liz Werther said “As students, we have the power to affect positive change on this campus and on our planet.”

When the speakers were finished and the applause dissipated, the demonstration flourished into peak activist nature, as the group on stage at the Oreo announced that everyone was invited to join in a march to the Office of the President, where the two demands for the school would be read directly to University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A. Ph. D., himself. Chants of call and response echoed all the way from the Oreo and into the halls of Tolentine, as this large group of Villanovans made their way to our President’s door. 

After the screaming and knocking, out came Father Peter, looking enthusiastic as always but nonetheless stunned by the number of people who had shown up  outside his office, and perhaps even more confused as to why they were there to begin with. As his entrance onto the scene began to silence the chants that had rang out for the past five or so minutes, Ms. Bonini cordially yet passionately began to read aloud her letter to the President of our university. Listening to the aforementioned demands, and hearing the goals of the students and faculty of Villanova, Donohue received the information with a positive yet stoic expression. After Ms. Bonini had finished, Donohue first thanked everyone who had come, citing their passion as a cornerstone of what makes Villanovans so special. He then turned to a sense of reassurement, stating that in time, results will come, especially for renewable energy on campus.

Ultimately, whether the involved students and faculty were pleased by the administration’s response to the demonstration or not, probably the largest thing to take away from Villanova’s own climate strike is that we as Villanovans have a voice that can and will be heard if loud enough. The key to change though, lies in persistence. Bonini said afterward that in general, her outlook of how students on campus perceive the climate change issue is positive, with many people citing concern over the topic and believing that change needs to be made. The caveat however, is what these concerned parties will do to help. Bonini wishes that students specifically will try to work towards habitual efforts in these types of endeavors, continuing to show up to events and to voice their opinions more consistently. Whether it be climate change or any other issue that we as a campus can work towards resolving, even in a miniscule way, our values of Veritas, Unitas and Caritas only go so far without being put to action. To unite as one, in the pursuit of truth through charitable efforts, is a means by which we as a campus can do our part to bring about change, and how we can set an example for others to do the same.

The students responsible for organizing this demonstration will be having Fridays For Future events on campus throughout the year in order to educate and mobilize students on the climate change issue. In addition, Members of the Sunrise Movement on campus are holding a town hall on the Green New Deal on Wednesday, Sept 25 at 8:00pm in Driscoll 227.