Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

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Carlyssa Phoon

A gold rating from the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System. Leading climate scientists lecturing daily. The Planet Texas 2050 plan, bridging disciplines to fight for a more resilient environment for future generations.

There’s no doubt UT is a leading university in terms of sustainability research and advocacy. So why can’t it publicly admit the climate crisis exists?

Even though the pressing issue of climate change has been heavily discussed through op-eds, research publications and classroom curricula, the UT administration has yet to issue a formal, Universitywide statement acknowledging the existence and severity of climate change.

UT needs to publish an administrativewide climate change statement that declares a public stance regarding the reality of the climate crisis. 

“We’re considered a state institute, and we operate under the rules of the state and the University of Texas System,” UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said. 

Bird said this neutral approach to the climate debate is common as far as university action goes. However, despite leading the country in climate science data collection and research, UT is behind in its public declaration of climate change. Similar universities in the United States, such as the University of California and The University of Chicago, have released statements and subsequent action plans. 

Both administrations issued statements as universities, shouldering the controversy that comes with climate change acceptance and not leaving the burden to the specific schools of atmospheric and geological science, as UT has done.

Bird also explained that “under the rules that operate the University of Texas System, the University does not take stances on political issues.” 

The future of its students, however, is far from a simple issue of political disagreement. Though it’s easier for an administration to write off the climate crisis as too political for public involvement, UT owes it to its students to prioritize their futures and see our current reality as more than a discussion in the political arena.

“We want it to be a conversation,'' said Kristine Januskaite, an international relations and global studies, sustainability studies and urban studies junior. “This is the most pressing issue of our time.”

Januskaite serves as the director of the activism campaign for Students Fighting Climate Change, an organization on campus dedicated to facilitating a cultural shift surrounding the climate conversation at UT through education, activism, media and political outreach.

Januskaite said because of the relationship UT has with oil through UTIMCO and its relevance in our culture, climate change has yet to be formally talked about by the administration, despite being taught about and researched every day by our professors. 

“We trust you as our University to be our biggest ally in supporting our future, but at the end of the day, you really don’t care about our futures,” Januskaite said. “The relationship at UT is paradoxical.” 

Data science, sustainability initiatives and education are only part of the path to solving the climate crisis. UT holds prominence in state and national media: If the administration can’t publicly support the science its professors are supplying, why should UT’s audience act any differently?

UT must publish an administrativewide statement acknowledging climate change. 

You claim that what starts here changes the world, but if you can’t start a conversation that’s essential to the futures of your students, you might as well take credit for ending it. 

Costello is a neuroscience freshman from Boerne, Texas.

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