ASWC introduces Climate Action Resolution

Natalie Comerford, News Reporter

On Feb. 5, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) Senate passed a resolution to formally state the students’ position that climate action should be one of Whitman’s strategic priorities. This resolution comes after a year of intense weather patterns and hotter summers in the Walla Walla area

Senior Eila Chin is a member of the ASWC Sustainability Committee and pushed for the resolution.

“A resolution is a formal stance of ASWC. It’s not binding; you don’t have to do an[y] action from it, but it is a formal stance saying we believe these actions should be taken,” Chin said.

Whitman College has five strategic priorities established by former President Kathy Murray; climate action is currently not one of them. As a result, several Whitman students have circulated a climate action petition that currently has close to 300 signatures. 

Senior and Interim ASWC President Fraser Moore wants the institution to prioritize climate sustainability.

“We titled [the resolution] Climate Action, because with global warming, we will experience increasing heat and drought stress in the Walla Walla area. Currently sustainability is not a priority of the institution. [The strategic priorities] were set in 2016, and sustainability was not one,” Moore said. 

Moore believes that Whitman should be doing a lot more to be a sustainable institution. Sophomore and Chair of the Sustainability Committee Owen Jakel agrees. Jakel hopes that the resolution and petition will pressure the administration to make climate action its own priority. 

“Alongside our petition that now has close to 300 signatures, [the resolution] is a statement that people think climate action should be a priority. We’re hoping it pushes the administration to see why climate action should be its own strategic priority,” Jakel said. 

Jakel sees climate action and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as intertwined; failing to prioritize climate action harms a diverse student population. 

“I think the most obvious example is that AC is not in a lot of dorm buildings, [and] the brunt of students staying here over the summer are international students. That’s obviously a problem when it’s 115 degrees here and there’s no AC. I think we’ve brought in a community we want to have here but haven’t given them the resources they need to be successful, safe and healthy,” Jakel said.

To turn from a resolution to a strategic priority, Climate Action will have to get through administrative hurdles. The students leading the initiative and those who support the petition express that Whitman’s student body already considers climate action a priority. Adopting climate action as a strategic priority would help align administrative action with campus sustainability values.