University of Michigan President Santa Ono has accepted an invitation on behalf of the University to join the U7+ Alliance of World Universities, an international coalition of university presidents from over 20 countries which aims to address issues ranging from climate change to inclusivity on university and college campuses. Most of the universities are in the G7 countries — a group of seven developed countries with robust capitalist markets — but the alliance is open to university’s outside of the G7 as well. The University is the fifth university in the U.S. to join the Alliance, following Northwestern University, Columbia University, Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley.
In an email to The Michigan Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen shared the U-M administration’s enthusiasm about the potential for future collaboration between the University and other members of the alliance.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with the leaders of other top institutions in trying to tackle some of today’s most pressing global challenges,” Broekhuizen said. “(The University) is one of the most research-intensive public universities in the world. We hope to contribute what we’ve learned through our work in important areas, such as climate change and sustainability, to the efforts to address issues that impact both current and future generations.”
The U7+ Alliance organizes events for campus leaders around the world to discuss and develop action steps to fixing campus issues affecting universities worldwide. For instance, Northwestern University serves as the secretariat of the alliance, meaning they are responsible for organizing and hosting intergenerational roundtables on behalf of U7+. These roundtables invite students and scientists from around the world to come together to discuss challenges facing almost all member institutions, such as climate change, intergenerational justice and the global gender gap.
Students at member universities can engage with the alliance through the U7+ worldwide student forum by participating in discussions and masterclasses, each of which center around current issues like campus responses to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the University of Michigan has joined the alliance, U-M students may have the opportunity to participate in these events as well. Public Policy senior Julia Fadanelli, co-president of the Michigan Foreign Policy Council, said she believes many students would be excited about the opportunity to discuss global issues in the forums.
“I feel like there is a very big community of people on (the University of Michigan’s) campus who are interested in foreign policy and international affairs, especially when it relates to climate change and poverty resolutions and economic inequality,” Fadanelli said. “I think students would be really excited to participate (in U7+ activities).”
U7+ also hosts university presidents at an annual presidential summit so they can collectively commit to concrete actions to address global challenges through improving sustainability and mental health initiatives on each of their respective campuses.
The first U7+ Summit was held in Paris in July 2019. At the initial summit, leaders from different universities around the world outlined six key commitments that all U7+ members must sign on to when they join. The third commitment focuses on global warming and recognizes that universities have a major role to play in spearheading sustainability efforts. U7+ members commit to improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and providing access to courses related to climate, biodiversity and sustainability.
The University has already made many commitments and actions in this area, including having Ono meet with Voices for Carbon Neutrality and establishing a plan to reach carbon neutrality and eliminate carbon emissions over the next couple of decades.
LSA senior Ben Klein, president of student sustainability organization Students for Clean Energy, said joining the U7+ alliance is a positive sign that the University is affirming its commitment to carbon neutrality and fighting climate change.
“We’re really happy to see the recent advances that the University has taken in terms of carbon neutrality and going more green with the infrastructure and promises to divest from fossil fuels,” Klein said.
In a University Record article, Ono said he is excited to see what will happen as a result of the teamwork between the University and the other universities in the alliance.
“We are so pleased to be joining the U7+ Alliance,” Ono said. “It is a tremendous opportunity to join the incredible strengths of the University of Michigan in discovery, excellence and innovation with other universities in having a local, regional and global impact.”
Daily Staff Contributor Laura Hurlburt can be reached at email@example.com.