Skipping class for the climate strike? Talk to your prof to avoid penalty

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By Tyler Griffin

Ryerson students participating in the Global Climate Strike taking place on Sept. 27 at Queen’s Park may be penalized for missing class, unless they have previously coordinated with their instructors, according to Ryerson University President Mohamed Lachemi.

In a statement on Ryerson’s website, provost and vice-president, academic Michael Benarroch said the university supports Climate Day of Action events taking place in Toronto, as well as students taking part. However, Ryerson will remain open on the day of the strike, “with classes, labs, assignments and tests moving forward as planned.”

“My only advice for students if they want to take part in this action and plan is to make sure their programs or their faculty and instructors are aware,” Lachemi told The Eyeopener. “We are encouraging people to participate but we cannot tell them ‘just miss your class.’ It has to be a dialogue with faculty.”

Benarroch also urged all faculty and contract lecturers to be flexible in accommodating Ryerson students participating in the strike.

“We stand behind those who are engaging in conversations around climate change, who are undertaking important research, and who are taking part in actions to address climate change locally and globally,” the statement read.

Some Canadian post-secondary institutions and school boards have moved to allow or encourage students to miss class for the global call to action. Toronto District School Board, the University of British Columbia and Dawson College in Montreal are among the institutions taking measures to support students planning to walk out of class for the cause, according to CBC.

“We totally believe that universities are places that should encourage public engagement and exchange of ideas. However, we are also…a place of learning, learning that requires time; in labs, studios, classes,” Lachemi said.

Although the university has a number of ongoing initiatives related to combatting climate change, Ryerson has not planned any events in solidarity with the climate strikes.

According to The Varsity, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) will be holding a series of events in support of the upcoming strike for the climate crisis. While classes at UTM will not be cancelled on the day of the strike, UTM vice-principal and dean Amrita Daniere encouraged faculty at UTM to be mindful of the walkouts and to remind students to request accommodations if they participate.

“Climate change is clearly one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time…The Strike represents a pedagogic moment that UTM wanted to be part of,” UTM Media Relations spokesperson Nicolle Wahl told The Varsity in an email.

Global protests for the climate crisis are taking place on Sept. 27 with organizations around the world, in solidarity with Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg. For the past year, Thunberg has staged weekly demonstrations calling on world leaders and governments to step up their efforts to fight climate change.

Earlier today, Thunberg gave an emotional speech at the United Nations General Assembly, where she asked world leaders a simple question: “How dare you?”

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” Thunberg said in her address. “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you come to us young people for hope,” Thunberg went on to say.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

There are now 183 strikes registered in Canada to take place on Sept. 27 on the global climate strike map of events. Thunberg will march in Montreal for the global strike this upcoming Friday.

With files from Valerie Dittrich, Kieona George and Madi Wong.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

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