LETTER TO THE EDITOR: MU needs to prioritize sustainability for planet, prospective students

Earth week is over, but that doesn’t mean we can stop talking about sustainability. In fact, as our atmosphere continues to heat up, the need for climate action only grows more urgent, both on global and local scales. However, as if ensuring the well-being of our ecosystems and communities vulnerable to climate impacts isn’t a good enough reason to prioritize sustainability, Marquette should also consider that prospective students are paying close attention.

In a 2021 survey of over 11,000 college applicants, 75% of those surveyed indicated that a college’s commitment to the environment affects their school choice. This perspective is shared with countless other members of Gen Z, who care about fossil fuel divestment, carbon neutrality, and environmental education. Climate activist Jamie Margolin summed this sentiment up in the title of her 2019 essay for TeenVogue: “For My Future College, Fossil Fuel Divestment Is a Must-Have So the Climate Crisis Doesn’t Make My Education Useless.” Since Marquette is a Jesuit school, we should aim to attract climate-conscious students like Jamie, not push them away.

Before I dive in more, I want to express that I’m not writing this to antagonize anyone. In fact, it is out of my love and gratitude for the MU community that I am writing this, with the ambition of witnessing our university leaders take Pope Francis’ teachings to heart by fostering sustainability on our campus and beyond. However, in order for that ambition to be actualized, our administration needs to be held accountable for their inaction and environmentally irresponsible investments.


MU is falling behind other universities

With regard to sustainability, Marquette is falling behind other universities that have plans to achieve carbon neutrality or a fossil-fuel-free investment portfolio. Even in the university’s most recent financial report, the most notable environmental-related achievement Marquette could boast was the usage of a new type of brine to melt ice on campus.

Unfortunately, eco-friendly brine isn’t enough to fully combat the climate crisis. Sure, it’s a step in the right direction, but considering it’s been over half a decade since President Lovell signed the Laudato Si’ pledge — in which he affirmed that Marquette would “act to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change” — we can’t let our administration’s failure to follow through on that commitment go unquestioned.


Fossil fuel investments

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: by investing in an industry that not only disproportionately pollutes Black, brown, Indigenous, and poor communities in America, but also has a history of funding climate disinformation campaigns, Marquette remains complicit in the face of environmental racism and climate denial. Saying it any less bluntly would be an insult to the marginalized groups that endure the harshest impacts of ecological degradation.

Investing in fossil fuels is universally immoral, but it’s especially reprehensible considering that Marquette is Catholic, Jesuit school, with a mission statement that ends with the sentence, “All this we pursue for the greater glory of God and the common benefit of the human community.” 


We still can be the difference

I don’t just want Marquette to do better — I know we can. Financially, going fossil-free makes a lot of sense, especially since Biden intends on reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and since multiple studies have proven fossil fuel divestment doesn’t hurt investment portfolios, including the University of Dayton, who divested in 2014.

Moreover, I know Marquette can divest because I have faith that our admin will listen to students’ concerns. In our recent Earth Day Referendum, 87% of student voters indicated support for fossil fuel divestiture. This is especially promising, since both Creighton and Georgetown decided to listen to their students after their divestment referenda had similar outcomes (86% approval in 2019 and 91% approval in 2020 for Creighton and Georgetown respectively).

Because of this, I still have faith that we can be the difference. Phasing out fossil fuel investments isn’t the only step MU should take — there should be efforts to integrate environmental justice into coursework, publish transparent sustainability reports regularly, and actively push local utilities towards green energy generation. We need to reflect on our actions and work to promote sustainability year-round, for both the planet and the next generation of Marquette students.

This story was written by Joseph Miscimarra, a Marquette student who volunteered to write this letter. He is not a staff member for the Wire. He can be reached at joseph.miscimarra@marquette.edu.

To submit a letter to the editor, email Executive Opinions Editor Alex Garner at alexandra.garner@marquette.edu and copy Managing Editor of the Marquette Tribune Annie Mattea and Executive Director Natallie St. Onge on those emails. They can be reached at anne.mattea@marquette.edu and natallie.stonge@marquette.edu.