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University shows flexibility for students who want to attend climate action strike

Activist Greta Thunberg arriving in New York City last month: Her activism has sparked Friday's global climate strike (photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several faculties and campuses across the University of Toronto are encouraging their instructors to be flexible if students wish to participate in a global climate strike on Friday. 

Millions of people around the world are expected to take to the streets to call for action on climate change, having been inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old whose protests outside the Swedish parliament have helped mobilize youth on every continent.

In Toronto, there are plans for a rally outside the provincial legislature at Queen's Park as part of the Fridays for Future movement led by Thunberg. 

“Many U of T students, as well as the broader U of T community, care deeply about climate action and many plan to attend the global climate strike on Friday,” says Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr. “The university has a rich array of academic programs that carry different academic demands and requirements. Where possible, faculties are showing flexibility for students to participate in the rally – and we support that approach.”

U of T is addressing climate change through scholarship and education as well as its own operations, she added. “This a defining moment for climate action, and the University of Toronto is committed to playing a leadership role through research, teaching and sustainability initiatives."

The deans of the Faculty of Arts & Science, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and Faculty of Information are among those asking instructors to be flexible with students who choose to attend the climate strike. Since academic requirements differ across the university, students are being asked to consult their instructors for more information about their situation. 

“Like many of you, I have been inspired by Greta's leadership on the climate crisis,” Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, said in a statement. “I know that many students from across Arts & Science will be participating in Friday's rally, and I would like to support your participation.”

At U of T's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Dean Chris Yip said the faculty strongly supports the university's commitment to address climate change. “Our Faculty is playing a key role in many of these initiatives and programs and I know that our students, staff and faculty are deeply engaged in these issues,” he said in a statement. He has asked faculty to be flexible to allow students to participate in the climate event should they wish to do so.

Wendy Duff, dean of the Faculty of Information, said the school also supports students interested in taking part in the rally. “We have a long tradition of fostering social responsibility in our role as global citizens,” she said.

At U of T Scarborough, Acting Vice-Principal (Academic) and Acting Dean Maydianne Andrade said U of T Scarborough students are invited to attend a climate change teach-in on Wednesday. She has asked instructors to provide flexibility for students who miss class on Friday to participate in the rally. 

U of T Mississauga is holding events throughout Climate Strike Week (Sept. 20 to 27) to raise awareness about the need for action on climate change and to create a healthy, sustainable environment.  

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