Message from the Director in Response to Executive Orders

Michelle DePass, Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center and Dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy shares her thoughts and reflections on recent presidential executive orders and their impacts on climate change and social justice. Since January 20th, we have witnessed an unprecedented attack on our core values and on the constitutional norms underpinning American justice. As a university-wide center at a progressive learning institution, the Tishman Center has a unique opportunity to become a vehicle to amplify the progressive qualities and values that have shaped The New School and strengthened our nation.As members of The New School community we need to understand what is happening at the national and international level with respect to public policy and how it impacts our students in a variety of ways. We are grateful that we have a space to talk about these impacts and to share ideas freely and openly.During the presidential campaign, we witnessed vitriolic attacks on climate science, immigration, pluralism, civil rights, and countless other issues. Now these attacks are quickly becoming a reality through executive orders. These executive orders raise many questions and concerns for students, staff and faculty. The New School and the Tishman Center will provide a safe and encouraging environment for open dialogue that can help illuminate issues and lead to productive learning and sharing of information.As a former Senate-confirmed appointee for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, I know that leadership on climate is essential to the global effort to curb the devastating effects of climate change. The executive actions issued this past week demonstrate the degree to which our investment in climate mitigation, human rights, and future generations are at stake. These orders include attempts to renew the process for construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; building a wall to physically separate us from our Mexican neighbors; and issuing an immigration ban that restricts entry and resettlement of all refugees for 90 days, and bans all entry from seven Muslim-majority nations that have not actually been linked to terrorist attacks within the United States, except for permanent residents and Christians. I am a child of immigrants who became US citizens that embraced this country for its openness and fairness, and such actions represent a threat to our core values and the values of The New School community.The Iroquois Nation once implored its leaders to consider the impact of all of their decisions upon their descendants seven generations into the future. There is no doubt that the actions already taken by the new administration will reverberate well into future generations. Similarly the actions we take in response to these assaults on our core values will also affect subsequent generations for whom we must now tirelessly work to protect.Democracy is our common value and education is our power. Detracting from education and transparency and free and open ideas sharing is a disturbing turn in the way our democracy operates.Over the course of the semester, we hope to use This Week in Sustainability as a platform for idea sharing, creative solutions, and building action agendas to uphold our common values and continue to make progress for positive change. I encourage you to share your ideas, reflections, and actions as we continue to move forward with vigilance and resolve.-Michelle DePass