Many have raised concerns about our respect for graduation, a day that is special to many people and that celebrates four years of hard work and accomplishment.
We’d like to empathize with any concerns and say that we explicitly do not plan to be disrespectful or disruptive in any of our efforts, even as we know what is at stake if planet continues on a path of rapid climate change that ExxonMobil actively leads and deeply abhor many of their additional impacts.
We recognize and sincerely respect that graduation is a very special event for all students, ourselves included. Many of us are seniors whose families have traveled far and wide for this special time (even from Germany and Alaska!), and who are excited for May 14th despite the speaker.
Our intent is not to disrupt the ceremony, but rather to show integrity to our values.
Respect is really important in this situation, not only because of the special nature of the graduation ceremony itself, but also because even while we oppose the choice of Tillerson, we really hope to receive support from fellow students, parents, and the overall WPI community. We hope to build a unified coalition of students who work together to tackle the serious issues confronting our generation that will determine the quality of life on this planet for centuries to come; alienating ourselves from our fellow students would not at all be prudent!
We believe that it is the choice of ExxonMobil that is not at all respectful of seniors. Our generation is inheriting a world facing the dire consequences of rapid global warming of which ExxonMobil is not only a leading contributor, but also for which ExxonMobil has spent millions of dollars spreading disinformation of the science, causing confusion about this danger to prevent policy that could affect its profits.
This is highly reprehensible. A 2011 British Medical Journal editorial perhaps captures the deadly nature of climate change best. Written by the surgeon rear admiral of the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense, it reviews and synthesizes recent reports on climate change, public health, and national security to contextualize the human impacts of global warming. It concludes that global warming “poses an immediate and grave threat driving ill-health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds upon the other.” The people who will be severely affected by this (to varying degrees depending on whether or not campaigns like those run by ExxonMobil continue to succeed and prevent serious change policies) must not be forgotten. We stand in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable.