Students Participate in Nationwide Walkout and Climate Strike

Corinna Vlahoyiannis Staff Writer

Friday, March 15th, The Oreo, 11:58 a.m.: the usual sparse clusters of students mill about, chatting on the benches, eating their COVA burrito bowls, while others are lay outstretched on the gray stone in hopes of extending their now peeling spring break tans. You all know the typical scene.

Friday, March 15th, The Oreo, 12:02 p.m.: the steps of the ellipse become invisible to bypassers as the central point on campus is immediately swarmed with a mob of nearly 200 students and faculty. Some are holding bright, homemade signs. Others are signing their names on a petition. People stop to observe, taken aback at the rallying commotion atypical to our tepid campus atmosphere.

This congregation of students participated in the Villanova Climate Strike/Walkout. The rally was just one among many occurring across 71 other countries on this day all of which were originally inspired by climate walkouts first started by a 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, who has been recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her climate activism.

 Participants in the University’s strike gathered for a short, peaceful demonstration at the Oreo, which featured student speakers Gracie Stagliano and Yvonne Nguyen. Then the group walked to the office of University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. to present him with two demands: 1) to move the University’s carbon-neutral pledge date up to 2030 and 2) to enter into a power purchase agreement for renewable energy by 2020.

Though Donohue was in New York City supporting the men’s basketball team in the Big East Tournament while protesters flocked the office, the climate protesters’ chants did not land on deaf ears. 

“We were aware he would not be present,”Stagliano said. “We gave [Father Peter] a letter with our demands and will await his response to decide how to move forward.”

Maeve Kavanagh and Corina Scott, the primary student organizers of the walkout, worked with the University’s sustainability manager, Liesel Schwarz, Peleg Kremer, faculty member at GEV, and Dr. Jean Lutes, organizer of a January town hall which addressed many of these campus climate issues.  

“We used social media like Facebook and Instagram to spread the message,” Kavanagh said. Through this medium, she and the leaders spread the word about the walkout. “We also emailed faculty members that we believed to be sympathetic to the cause, so they could make their classes aware of the event.”

Regarding the proposed demands, Kavanagh also explained that her group decided to demand the University’s carbon-neutrality pledge be pushed up by 20 years to 2030. This stresses the importance of treating climate change as a current dilemma, “rather than treat[ing] it as a future problem.”

Kavanagh continued, “I think it would be beneficial for us to look at other universities that are doing better than us in their sustainability efforts, and see how we can catch up.” She even suggests the University look to other schools who have succeeded in becoming carbon neutral, such as American University.

Kavanagh also explained that the second demand, the one pertaining to the University’s power purchase agreement, would mean that by 2020 the University would use renewable energy for its operations instead of fossil fuels. 

“Villanova needs to reduce its energy usage overall and use things like solar panels and/or wind power as its sources of energy,” Kavanagh said.

Though organizers were pleased with the turnout of the Walkout, they are not ending their fight here. 

“Going forward, we are hoping to put into place ‘Fridays for Future’ on Villanova’s campus,” Scott said. “We hope to have a group of students sit outside Father Peter’s office or at the Oreo every Friday at noon for the rest of the semester to keep the pressure on the administration to take action.”  

“There is still more work to be done, but it was really inspiring to see so many dedicated students and faculty show up for the climate strike,” Scott said. “I’m really proud of the Villanova community for coming together on Friday afternoon and asking our administration to do better. I know we can.”

If students would like to be involved in the future of sustainability on Villanova’s campus, the organizers urge students to join sustainability clubs on campus. Additionally, students are encouraged to attend the University’s sustainability planning meeting on March 21 at 5:30 p.m. in Bartley 3042.

“The earth is everyone’s home. Our university is kind of acting like a ‘bad roommate,’ leaving trash (aka plastic waste, non-renewable energy sources) everywhere instead of cleaning up,” Stagliano said. “We need to stop being part of the problem and be part of the solution.”