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On September 27th, tens of thousands of people in Toronto, and millions around the world, took to the streets to support the Global Climate Strike movement.  As an institution that is fundamentally committed to addressing issues surrounding global awareness and social responsibility, New College was proud to be a part of this movement and support students as they made their concerns about climate change heard.  Led by members of the Women and Gender Studies Institute, a group of New College students, instructors and staff joined the march.


Students in the Introduction to Women Studies course were encouraged by their instructor Dr. June Larkin to attend the rally. Dr. Larkin and Dr. Alissa Trotz, Director of the WGSI, then extended this invitation to all members of WGSI and to New College as a whole.  Students gathered in the morning to make signs and then met outside of Wilson Hall to travel to the rally together.


A firm supporter of the Global Climate Strike movement, Dr. Trotz was one of several authors of an open letter to the University’s President Meric Gertler, requesting a campus wide closure for the climate rally, rather than just encouraging faculty to be ‘flexible’ when it came to students who wanted to attend.  If the University’s administration had approved the closure, as was the case at some other Canadian universities, it would have taken the responsibility off individual faculties and instructors to cancel classes or excuse students who were choosing to participate. Other universities also urged managers to be flexible in supporting staff attendance.   The open letter noted that closure would have been a clear sign that the University of Toronto stood in solidarity with youth,  and opened the door for instructors and faculty to attend the rally.


Although the letter collected over 3000 signatures, it did not change the University’s policy or allow for a campus closure. But that didn’t stop U of T students or New College itself from participating in the strike. Accompanying the New College contingent was Principal Bonnie McElhinny, who gave her support to the letter. Consultations with the Principal’s Advisory Group and New College Academic Directors showed overwhelming support for the global climate strike, and for the open letter calling for a strong university response in support of the strike, and in support of those who chose to attend.  Much of McElhinny’s recent work has focused on Indigenous rights, environmental justice, and water protection, so the topic of climate change closely aligns with her professional and personal ethics.


New College, always proudly ‘green’, is committed to standing in unity with the leaders of tomorrow, and pushing forward in the fight for climate justice.


This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of New(s) Update.  Click here to see the full newsletter.