Interim College President Taylor Reveley will announce a new campus sustainability plan April 22, Earth Day, but he does not plan to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
“It’s crucial that we do as much as we can in the areas that subsume sustainability,” Reveley said. “I think this plan is a pretty significant statement of what we intend to do.”
“I’m not particularly enthusiastic about [the PCC],” he said. “It’s not realistic in what it sets out. At some point we may sign it, but not now.”
The PCC was at the center of a proposal presented to former College President Gene Nichol one year ago by government and environmental studies professor Maria Ivanova and her graduate seminar on environmental policy. The proposal calls for the College to become carbon neutral by 2020 through a variety of energy conservation methods.
The College, though, has been wary to sign.
“The PCC is a document that is intended to drive people to concrete action, but I’m not sure all the goals are attainable,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said. “Signing it would be making promises we aren’t sure we can keep.”
Martin, however, does support achieving improved sustainability on campus.
“You will have people who feel it’s intellectually dishonest to sign, but who think that we can achieve the same impetus without signing it,” she said. “I believe we can make it happen [with the forthcoming plan].”
Reveley said part of the College’s new plan includes the creation of a sustainability committee to take over the work of the current Landscape, Energy and Environment Committee.
Reveley also stressed a desire to focus first on what he called “low-hanging fruit.”
“The PCC is mostly aspirational,” he said. “We actually want to accomplish things, starting with the low-hanging fruit — things that we have the money to do now. We want to build credibility and momentum so that we can look into getting outside funding to continue with bigger projects.”
One of the PCC proposal’s chief goals is the establishment of a sustainability coordinator on campus.
“We’re already doing more for sustainability than so many schools, but we’re not taking credit for it,” Ivanova said. “There is no director for a sustainability movement — no governance structure to connect the projects, present them and build upon them.”
This, Ivanova said, is one reason the College received a D-minus last fall for its sustainability policy.
Both Reveley and Martin were hesitant about the idea of creating an administrative position to address the issue.
“I want to start with the committee rather than hiring another administrator,” Reveley said. “I want to see the money we do have used to address the low-hanging fruit. In the fullness of time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one hired.”
Martin agreed that the College would likely create a similar position in the future.
“I think that will happen over time, but it would be tough given the budget we have,” she said.
Ivanova spoke to the financial concerns by citing the 85 percent of students who voted in favor of the recent Green Fees referendum.
“If they are having trouble financially, they should encourage the BOV to pass the Green Fees initiative,” Ivanova said. “The students are putting their money where their mouth is. It is the strongest signal the administration could possibly get that students are in favor of this movement.”
The proposed change, which the Board of Visitors will vote on next week, would add a $15 tuition fee per semester for sustainability.
Both Reveley and Martin expressed support for the fee. Neither, however, seemed sure that it would pass.
BOV member Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66, chair of the Committee on Financial Affairs, said the survey results would be taken into account, although he could not speak for the whole board.
“To the extent that students took their belief that ‘we as students are willing to put our money up to support making the campus more environmentally sensitive’ is a very good and very positive thing, and I think that will echo well with the board,” Wolf said.