Purdue is one of only two Big Ten schools without an institutional plan for addressing climate change.
Over fifty students addressed that Friday in a march spearheaded by the Purdue Student Sustainability Council, calling on Purdue to take climate action.
“It's an integral piece of our movement,” one of the organizers Mason Merkle said. “We can talk about all the technical (details) and the science, but the movement isn't anything without the people behind it.”
Vice President of the Purdue Student Sustainability Council Laura Gustafson said several groups have been working on climate advocacy for years, but progress is slow.
“There's been a lot of work done in the past few years,” she said. “People on this campus want Purdue to take climate action, and I think it's just come to a boiling point.”
The marchers eventually congregated outside Hovde Hall of Administration, where several students gave speeches.
“There are things that (IU) can't beat us at,” Merkel, senior in the College of Engineering, said in his speech at the event. “But there's one thing that they are beating us at. It's not football, it’s climate action.”
IU plans to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050, according to previous Exponent reporting. Ball State University plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Isha Gupta, member of West Lafayette Students for Climate Action and junior in the College of Engineering, said one of the biggest reasons for this is the lack of strong institutional support from Purdue President Mitch Daniels and other top administrators.
“We're trying to show that there's big ground support through the petition and the marching,” she said. “But at some point, we need help from the top as well.”
Shannon Kang, Purdue Student Government president and West Lafayette City Councilor, spoke from a student's and city councilor's perspective.
“The city has heard the voices of community members and definitely of students because we finally have a Greater Lafayette climate action plan that can help us get not only Purdue carbon neutral, but also this whole community,” she said in her speech.
Purdue has committed to reducing institutional emissions by 50 percent from 2011 by 2025 in its most recent Sustainability Master Plan, but Purdue’s actions haven’t kept stride with West Lafayette’s, she said.
“There needs to be cooperation between Purdue and the city, and also the Greater Lafayette area. If Purdue doesn't do something, then the train’s gonna leave without us.”
This reporting is supported by Carbon Neutral Indiana, a nonprofit helping “individuals and businesses clean up their carbon footprints.”