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Portland’s College Students Want Their Schools to Cancel Class So They Can Strike on Climate

These petitions demand that schools cancel class, close campus or not punish those who join the Sept. 20 Global Climate Strike.

Students from Portland and a handful of schools across the nation are petitioning their schools to cancel class so they can join Friday's Global Climate Strike.

In the Portland area, students at three schools—the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), Lewis & Clark College and Reed College—have created Change.org petitions to demand their colleges to cancel classes, close campus or to not punish students, faculty or employees who walk out to join tomorrow's strike. They also want their schools to endorse the strike to demonstrate their "unwavering support for climate justice."

As of publication, the PNCA petition has the highest number of signatures on Change.org among those from Oregon schools, at 113.

"PNCA's Core Themes, which are meant to guide every aspect of the school's decision-making, clearly merit action on this issue," wrote PNCA students in a letter to the college's administrators. "Our PNCA community will be stronger and more aligned with its publicly stated values if administrators join us in striking. Publicly walking the talk of our Core Values will build our community by attracting educators and students who value justice, equity, peace in the world."

The PNCA Faculty Senate, the governing body for the college's faculty, endorsed students participating in the strike, said spokesperson Lisa Radon.

"PNCA students are not bystanders in culture," wrote PNCA in a statement. "The foundational core of their creative expression is to be agents of change—to engage in the critical dialogues of our times. PNCA's Core Themes, which guide the school's curriculum and the implementation of its mission support critical inquiry, giving students the tools to examine existing and emerging cultural, social and political conditions and to make informed judgments. PNCA supports a global understanding of the world, encouraging an understanding of diverse cultures and teaching students to recognize the interconnectedness of both natural and human systems."

At Reed, an additional petition (not on Change.org) garnered more than 600 signatures. The school's president wrote in a campus-wide email that—though she could not close campus because of the school's commitment to "community governance and faculty autonomy"—students should speak with their professors about joining the strike.

"Reed students have been generating thoughtful conversation about the urgency of climate change and how the college can work toward a more sustainable future," said Reed spokesperson Robin Tovey. "Also, related events are planned on campus throughout next week, including a sustainable food night, a sustainable landscape design talk, a recycling center training, and more."

Related: Teen Activists Will Lead a Climate Strike in Portland This Week. Here's What to Expect.

The dean of Lewis & Clark, Bruce Suttmeier, wrote in a campus-wide email that he urges faculty to be flexible with absent students and that classes related to climate and activism should "consider building the event into syllabi in some way."

"Lewis & Clark is recognized for its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability, and we support the goals of Friday's event. To quote President Wiewel on higher education's role in the global climate crisis, we should 'take this opportunity to do what we do best: recommit ourselves to the importance of learning all we can about these critical issues, sharing what we learn with others, and translating our knowledge into practical and meaningful actions.'"

As of publication, there are about a dozen of these petitions in Change.org's "climate strike" section. The petition with the highest number of signatures as of publication is from students at South Carolina's Clemson University, with 1,066 supporters.