Senate CRE Letter on Divestment from Fossil Fuels

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Dear WashU Community,
On Monday, April 1st, Fossil Free WashU released a letter from Board of Trustees member Harry J. Seigle, responding to a first-year student’s concerns about the effect of climate change on her family. Seigle’s letter, in addition to containing several alarming statements denying basic climate science, showed a troubling lack of empathy for students affected by climate change, particularly those impacted by its role in California’s wildfires.
Seigle’s letter denies the central role of CO₂ in climate change. Additionally, by falsely implying that climate change has no impact on the wildfires , Seigle shows blatant disregard for science. This misleading rhetoric comes from a member of the Board of Trustees, the most powerful and least transparent University entity. It undermines Washington University’s integrity as a leader in science and public health. Furthermore, it contradicts this university’s commitment to its students, who make up the generation bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change. We condemn Seigle’s letter wholeheartedly.
Although we know he felt comfortable copying Vice Chancellor Lori White and Board of Trustees Chair Craig Schnuck on his letter, we don’t know whether the Board or anyone on it endorses Trustee Seigle’s views. Although over 30 members of the Board received letters from Fossil Free WashU, Seigle’s was the only response. For that at least, we thank him. The lack of transparency from the Board, despite repeated attempts by students and student organizations to reach them for comment or discussion, has consistently been a barrier to understanding how our university works. Making key decisions behind closed doors and with little to no explanation denies us, the students and faculty, the ability to make informed opinions. It also forces student advocates into an antagonistic relationship with the Board and the administration, rather than allowing for a collaborative one.
 We call upon the Board of Trustees and the Washington University administration to respond to this statement and enter into a good-faith dialogue with the student body.
In the tradition of many students and faculty before us and with a new Chancellor perhaps ushering in a new era of change, this Student Union Senate committee looks forward to collaborating with the student body, the administration, and the Board of Trustees to take meaningful action on increasing the University’s accountability and supporting student advocacy on campus.
We’re ready for change .
Student Union Senate Campus and Residential Experience Committee
Phillip Keisler, Chair
Joe Billips
Diva Harsoor
Jake Sassmannshausen