SOGS Declaration of Climate of Emergency

The Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) Declaration of Climate Emergency

Climate change poses an imminent, monumental threat to peoples’ livelihoods both on Western University’s campus and within the greater City of London community. Meanwhile, the ongoing collapse of biodiversity and loss of species here in Canada and abroad risks unprecedented devastation to the natural world. Continued environmental decline will leave behind a poorer, more fragile state of life on our planet for future generations: mass extinction will permanently reduce the capacity of our planet to grow food, to regenerate landscapes and to provide ecosystem services which we, and all other life depend on to survive. Today, it is still possible for humanity to prevent mass extinction by changing our behaviours.

The changes to our planet, being induced by anthropogenic climate crisis and biodiversity loss, disproportionately affect historically oppressed groups, who pay the greatest cost in food insecurity, loss of natural resources, and displacement. Continued inaction by governments and institutions to address the root causes of climate change and biodiversity loss constitutes unacceptable environmental injustice.

In accordance with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Paris Agreement and Production Gap Report, Western University signed the Sustainable Development Goals Accord Global Climate Letter. With their signature, Western pledged to perform the following actions by the year 2025:

  1. Mobilize more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  2. Pledge to reach net-zero by 2030, or 2050 at the very latest;
  3. Increase the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes;
  4. Produce a plan on how they will achieve net-zero, with interim targets, and make this publicly available and update on an annual basis.

For Western University to stay true to their pledge to the SDG Accord, it must strive towards setting and meeting more ambitious sustainability targets.

In the Fall semester of 2020 the SOGS Sustainability Committee sent out a survey to all Western graduate students to collect information about their perceptions of sustainability issues involving SOGS, Western University, and the London community at large. The survey found that 90% of respondents feel anxious about their future because of climate change. Graduate students expressed overwhelming support for Western University to renew its commitment to environmental sustainability, with 90% of responses indicating Western should do more to address climate change and suggesting that Western should increase promotion of its existing sustainability programs on campus. In summary, the majority of SOGS members who completed the survey want Western to recognize climate change as an emergency (see Appendix X).

In keeping with similar efforts led by the Canadian Federation of Students’ Climate Justice and a Liveable Planet Campaign, University of British Columbia’s Climate Emergency Declaration, and

City of London’s Climate Emergency Declaration, the Sustainability Committee is calling on SOGS to demonstrate support for swift and ambitious climate actions within our Society and Western University by endorsing the present declaration that we are in a state of climate emergency.  This declaration is necessary (1) as a direct response to SOGS members’ concerns about climate change, (2) to refocus our institutional leadership’s priorities around the crisis we face, and (3) to stand in solidarity with the 2019 City of London climate emergency declaration. By endorsing this declaration, SOGS will prepare to support efforts on campus and within the community to address unprecedented societal challenges.

In declaring a climate emergency, SOGS recognizes:

  1. That climate change is an urgent, monumental threat that is of great concern to SOGS members.
  2. That the Society bears a responsibility to meet environmental concerns of its members with strategic actions.
  3. That as a public institution, Western University has a fundamental, ethical responsibility to become a leader in actively combating climate change through adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency both within and beyond its institutional boundaries.
  4. That given Western’s reputation as one of Canada’s most distinguished research institutions, the declaration is consistent with the university’s scientific integrity and academic rigour.
  5. That conserving natural features and biodiversity on Western’s campus grounds is of high importance to graduate students.

READ THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY DECLARATION  HERE.

SOGS Statement Regarding Harassment During the 2020 Presidential By-Election

Dear SOGS members, 

During the SOGS Presidential by-election this past summer, one member of the SOGS community failed to uphold the commitment to respect others outlined in our mission statement. In particular, this member sent several email messages to other members and Society officers that were variously intimidating, threatening and personally harassing. Although healthy debate and disagreement is encouraged at SOGS, these behaviours are clearly unwelcome and beyond what is appropriate. Please see a formal statement outlining SOGS’ response to this case of harassment.
 
Concerns about harassment can be directed to our Ombudsperson, Seth Kadish (ombudsperson@sogs.ca). Concerns about our harassment policies and procedures can be directed to our President, kirstyn seanor (president@sogs.ca).
 
Read the full statement HERE.

We The Students – Student Choice Initiative

On January 17, 2019, Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, announced a series of proposed changes to OSAP funding, university tuition fees, and student ancillary fees.

This announcement included:

  • A guaranteed 4 per cent cut in institutional funding;
  • A reduction in non-repayable grants and an increase in student loans;
  • An attack on students’ unions ability to represent and service their members;
  • The elimination of the 6-month grace period for loan repayment.

News coverage:


Students’ unions serve students in a number of significant ways, including:

  • Coordinating health and dental insurance plans;
  • Providing transit passes for students;
  • Running essential support services such as peer support, equity centres (e.g Pride centres), sexual violence support centres, food banks, etc.;
  • Providing academic support and advocacy services;
  • Creating volunteer and job opportunities for students;
  • Operating non-profit commercial services, such as book stores, restaurants, cafes and food services.

What does this mean for SOGS?: Graduate students will be able to opt out of any non-essential ancillary fee, which includes SOGS membership dues. 

SOGS membership dues fund:

  • Administration of the health/dental plan and the LTC bus pass program;
  • Advocacy initiatives on and off-campus;
  • Awards – Thesis Completion Fund, Peggy Collins Memorial Award;
  • Bursaries each term for Canadian and international students;
  • Committees;
  • Commissioners stipend for the Accessibility, Indigenous, Pride, and Women’s Concerns Commissioners;
  • Elected executive stipend;
  • Elected commissioner stipends;
  • Emergency Loan program for graduate students;
  • GradCast radio show (CHRW 94.9 – every Tuesday) – SOGS official radio show for graduate student by graduate students;
  • Graduate Student Teaching Awards;
  • Ombudsperson stipend;
  • Orientation week in September and January;
  • Operation of the SOGS office (includes staffing, supplies and building services/fees);
  • Non-TA foodbank;
  • Student Government (i.e., SOGS monthly council) and the departmental grants issued to each department annually for councillor attendance at monthly council (which helps pay for activities and events for graduate student associations across campus);
  • Scholarships: 125th Scholarship
  • Student advocacy and membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) (includes attendance at various CFS meetings provincially and the national AGM);
  • Subsidies: Travel, Childcare, and Professional Placement;
  • Subsidized social and cultural events for students (and their families) on and off-campus throughout the year;
  • Wellness week in October;

SOGS also provides students with:

  • A well-rounded campus life;
  • Academic and wellness supports;
  • Academic appeals advocacy;
  • Advocacy for minority students;
  • A voice with local government representatives;
  • Connections with campus stakeholders, departments, campus organizations, and the TA/Postdoc union (PSAC Local 610);
  • Infrastructure of support, both academic and financial;
  • New student orientation events which bring new students together, fostering a positive graduate student experience;
  • Representation at Western University with administration;
  • Social and community programming;
  • New international student outreach;
  • Services for visiting and exchange students;
  • Support for at-risk graduate students.

If you DO NOT agree with the recent changes to Ontario university education funding, join the cause and sign the CFS-ON letter being sent to Premier Doug Ford, MPP Dr. Merrilee Fullerton (Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities), and your local MPP. 

Sign the letter here.


In addition, consider signing the March For Students Rights postcards and letter to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario available in the SOGS office (MC room 8).

   


Opinion Pieces and Editorials:

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