Storytelling, regardless of popular opinion and certain facts and figures, inadvertently manifests a culture. As a young parent I can't help but connect the dots-past, present and future. Mothers don't have time to beat around the bush. Our eyes blinked and we have a 17 year old nephew who is DRIVING, coming closer to making his wish as a young boy come true: to be on his way toward the title: Rutgers University Alumnus.
With better knowledge, ideally we make better informed decisions. The world is changing and universities as a culture would do well to not only embrace, but institute student-alumni engagement. Divestment from fossil fuels is already propelling student alumni unification-some in university clusters.
If my Grandparents hadn't chosen to live in Teaneck, my Uncle might not have attended Rutgers and the Rutgers tote bag in my first bedroom wouldn't beingrained in my memory. R for Rachel, right?
By way of a Nina, I met 2 other Rachels and a Shane who go to Rutgers now. Rutgers students have enlivened a divestment campaign with help fromResponsible Endowments Coalition. I found out about the recent Experience Rutgers Climate Change event and road show from these students, who also shared with me that Rutgers has divested once before.
"Students at American universities were especially outraged with the laws and students at Rutgers University were very active in protesting apartheid. As a response to student and faculty sentiments, Rutgers University divested from companies that did not adhere to the Sullivan principles in 1978."
The same day of this event, these Rutgers students were told they were no longer to be on the agenda of a Board meeting, discussing divestment in some capacity. There was some talk from administrative staff about it being unprecedented. I'll leave it up to them to share what they are preparing for the remainder of the semester and beyond.
During the Q&A session at this first Rutgers Alumni Association event I have attended in 11 years, when one Rachel spoke up and out, with support of alumni, the students were all of a sudden back on the agenda. When President Barchi spoke, I heard too much defeat. The school’s curriculum and organizational structure could benefit from sustainability strategies, one of which is divestment. I listened attentively knowing that I successfully used the community organizing foundation I gained at Rutgers to ensure The New School practiced sustainability inside and out of every branch while I was a graduate student there; that effort is still ongoing.
As a student, Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick convened all of us student leaders in Newark, a midpoint between New Brunswick and Camden. The purpose was to gauge our ideas and concerns about campus life. He was the first person to tell me we could infiltrate the legislature, follow the funding or lack thereof. He got me excited about what we could do as student leaders in the great state of New Jersey and beyond. He sought us out and continuously and deeply engaged with us, as did Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, Amy Vojta, Rabbi Baruch Goodman, et al.
Back in the Spring of 2004, President McCormick invited student leaders to a presentation concerning proposals for the then 2008 master plan. We saw 2 proposals:
1) A greener campus, incorporating a light rail to better connect the university
2) More roads, perpetual infrastructure funded by Exxon.
While we all clearly wanted option 1, likely funding and politics chose option 2. And so it goes...
Higher education organizations and spaces are rich stomping grounds for students to get their initial foray into real life community building. Following the money trail is the first task I engage in when buying produce, considering taking on a new client or choosing to donate or invest.
The control of the story is what I both empower and expect from students and alumni to take back. It's ours and our future hangs in the balance. The second road show stop in Philadelphia, PA is already over and the next one in Washington, D.C. is slated for later this month. The science shared by these wonderful Rutgers professors is already cited by POTUS and I’m a New Jersey mother both terrified and optimistic about our planet’s future.
Years ago, before she was a mainstream media talking head, Rachel Maddow told radio show listeners to go out and become investigative journalists. "All you aspiring lawyers out there, become an investigative journalist." Her words echo true now and will always. What if we use our myriad devices and storytelling platforms to bring our planet’s chaos to a halt?
The unification of students and alumni on campuses throughout the globe has tremendous potential for significant impact in our climate crisis. This is about a lot of people doing a little bit, in unison-and the 20 somethings finally outnumber the baby boomers. Let’s get organized.