Letter to the editor: Chatham Student Power and its guise of progressivism

Photo Credit: Jorie Meil

Photo Credit: Jorie Meil

I originally joined Chatham Student Power (CSP) because I wanted to further educate myself and become more active in social justice issues. I went to the first meeting in the fall, and the general consensus was that they don’t do much in fall but get ready for the Sustainable Fashion Fair in the spring. If I had known that the magnum opus of a progressive student organization was sustainable fashion, I would have joined the Green Team and saved myself the disappointment, but this does highlight how sustainability has been used as a calling card to appear progressive without taking the time to learn about other pressing issues.

I want to preface this by saying that transitioning toward sustainable practices to address the climate crisis is paramount and often intersectional to progressive issues such as income inequality, racial disparities, etc. However, from my experience with CSP, its approach to addressing climate change has been strictly environmental. Environmental activism is convenient activism when you do not attempt to recognize and/or work with the actual people being affected. 

The lack of diversity in issues is off-putting and, frankly, makes me not want to participate in the club at all. On Nov. 13, the same day that CSP marched down Fifth Avenue to protest Chatham’s fossil fuel investments, there was also a protest in honor of Jim Rogers, a Black man who died after being tased eight times by police in East Liberty on Oct. 14. CSP promoted this protest once on an Instagram story the night before it took place, but it was quickly drowned out by promotion for the climate march, which the group had been doing for multiple weeks ahead of time. Clearly, this showed prioritization of one event over the other. I am not from Pittsburgh, so even if I could have attended the protest for Rogers, I would not have felt comfortable enough to go by myself. Also, the fact that I probably would have been going by myself regardless felt even more discouraging. 

 Activism is a collective effort, and students have always played an instrumental role. CSP missed a valuable opportunity to not only bring awareness to Chatham students but also to show solidarity with the greater community. This organization has so much potential to inspire constructive conversations about progressive issues, but that is something I have yet to see.

-Lauren Cox, class of 2025


The Communiqué welcomes readers to submit letters to be considered for publication. Send your reactions to stories, thoughts on Chatham University and whatever else is on your mind to opinion editor Abbey Sullivan ([email protected] edu).