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  • The Brown Daily Herald

UCS endorses Sunrise’s petition for climate responsible provost

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

This article is written and published by the Brown Daily Herald

The Undergraduate Council of Students hosted a sustainability town hall meeting Wednesday, during which members of Brown’s Sunrise chapter presented their petition for the next provost to commit to the University’s environmental obligations as outlined in the strategic sustainability plan released in 2021.

Daniel Newgarden ’25, UCS chair of academic affairs, presented a resolution for the Council to endorse Sunrise’s petition, which was passed unanimously by the 12 members present.

The resolution states that “upon passage of this resolution, (UCS) shall forward this resolution to the Provost Search Committee to show its full support for the Sunrise Brown ‘Statement for the Next Provost: Brown’s Climate Responsibility.’”

Newgarden said that he will be sitting in on future provost search committee meetings and plans to bring up Sunrise’s concerns. “Once we get down to a couple of candidates, I can promise Sunrise that, even if the rest of the committee doesn’t listen to this, I’ll be bringing it up constantly,” Newgarden said. “And that will be one of my key tests for which candidate to support.”

He said that UCS President Ricky Zhong ’23 and Vice President Mina Sarmas ’24 meet regularly with President Christina Paxson P’19, while other members, including him, meet with other University administrators.

The petition, which received 500 signatures throughout two weeks, outlines six principles, including ensuring all University programs are free of climate disinformation and rejecting all University financial ties to fossil fuel companies.

According to Sunrise chapter coordinator Isaac Slevin ’25, the organization has two reasons for the latter principle — the importance of actively fighting climate change and the University’s responsibility to eliminate climate disinformation as a research institution.

Corporations who “advance climate change” — which Slevin explained disproportionately affects island nations, low income communities, public health and migration — should be held accountable, he said.

“A lot of people might have a misconception that what we’re trying to do is impose a certain set of beliefs in the University,” said Isabella Garo ’24, a member of Sunrise. “But at the end of the day, climate change disinformation, climate change denialism and actively working against progress in the direction of moving away from climate change — (that goes) against everything that Brown as an academic institution stands for.”

“You cannot claim to be in pursuit of knowledge and truth while embracing and welcoming those who are working in the opposite direction,” she added.

The signatures are predominantly from undergraduate students, Slevin said. The petition shows that, on top of six other groups at Brown, the statement also received endorsements from nine allied organizations, including climate groups at other universities and “two national organizations that are focused on fossil fuels,” he added.

“The provost is in a very important role to execute the sustainability policy, to oversee academics (and) to oversee finances” Slevin said, adding that it’s crucial to ensure the next provost is committed to implementing climate action.

Garo added that the most important goal for this petition is to put climate responsibility on the provost search committee’s radar, even if they choose “not to subscribe fully to every single part of” the petition.

“There is a sizable group on campus who wants to hold them accountable,” she said. “It will set the standard for them going forward.”

Slevin said that having more than 500 signatures “is a really powerful statement of students’ support for climate action.”

“That’s something that we’re going to continue to build on,” he added. “We’re really excited to represent the student body because it feels like we have the support that we need from undergraduates to fight this strongly.”



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