MSA pushes for environmental justice liberal education requirement

MSA sent a letter to the Council on Liberal Education to change the “environment” requirement theme to “environmental justice”

by Madison Roth

In November, the Environmental Accountability Committee of the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) wrote and sent a letter to the members of the Council on Liberal Education in an effort to change the environmental liberal education requirement to the environmental justice requirement.

The authors of this letter include fourth-year Madeline Miller, fourth-year Sterling Homard, third-year Madeline Brandt and several other members of the Environmental Accountability Committee.

“We’re hoping that they change the environment theme to environmental justice and not only undergo a name change, but also change the classes that qualify for the theme to incorporate more environmental justice elements,” said Homard.

In 2019, there was a MSA resolution to increase ideas of environmental justice within the University curriculum. After getting passed through MSA, no further action was taken to make environmental justice a requirement, said Brandt in an interview with the Minnesota Daily.

Later, this resolution was mentioned in the letter sent to the Council. The letter read, “by not having a commitment to environmental justice, the University of Minnesota is being surpassed by five institutions within the BIG10 conference, and countless others nationwide.”

While many courses already qualify for this new theme, there would need to be modifications by professors. These courses would need to be evaluated to meet certain requirements to fulfill the environmental justice theme.

According to the letter, certain requirements for a course to meet the environment justice theme would be to “raise environmental issues of major significance” and “introduce the underlying scientific principles behind the environmental issues presented.”

Some students said they are worried this change would add to their course load, but Brandt said it would not. The only change for students is some professors would have to modify the structure of their courses to meet the new criteria.

There are many student organizations that stand behind this letter, such as the United Nations Student Association, the College of Liberal Arts Student Board, the Students For Climate Justice and several others.

In regards to how the Council of Liberal Education addressed the possible change in the environment liberal education requirement, Associate Professor Kathryn Pearson responded to an email sent by the Minnesota Daily.

“CLE has not been involved in these conversations,” Pearson said, “the Provost is planning to redesign Liberal Education requirements soon and it could be considered in the redesign process.”

According to the fall survey sent out by MSA earlier this semester, 70% of students said they would be interested in taking an environmental justice course.

“It will give [students] a better perspective on the world they’re going to be entering after college, and give them that base of what they can do after college, giving them that knowledge,” Brandt said.

The authors said the main objective of the letter is to encourage students to learn more about the world around them and how their environment impacts them on a daily basis. The purpose of the environmental justice liberal education requirement is to help students become diverse leaders in society after their graduation.

According to a report by NASA, there will be a rise in temperature from 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. This increase in temperature can cause droughts, dying crops and numerous other critical issues for our world.

“It’s unrealistic to think that the future of our society isn’t contingent upon our environment,” Homard said. “It is going to prepare students for the next step and prepare them for the fight for climate justice.”

Overall, the Environmental Accountability Committee members said they want to see one core response from the University and its students: to get excited about the environmental justice movement.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the University to move ahead in terms of being prepared for the future, making a statement towards other universities,” Miller said.

If the Council of Liberal Education agrees to make the change of the environment liberal education requirement, it would take effect next fall.