The College of William and Mary has improved its sustainability grade over the past year from a D- to a C, according to an annual report card released last week by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The increase in score is significant, but still places the College behind its peer colleges and universities.
Philip Zapfel ’09, a facilitator for the Student Environmental Action Coalition, was enthusiastic about the improvement but recognized the work yet to be done.
“I’m happy to see our grade go up,” Zapfel said. “A C is a better reflection of the efforts toward sustainability that are happening at the College, more so than the D- that we got last year. That being said, there are definitely ways in which we need to improve.”
Vice President for Administration Anna Martin welcomed the improved grade, yet was cautious to place too much weight on a single score.
“It’s difficult to know how each of these groups rate [schools],” she said. “For example, we received a Princeton Review rating last week, and we got a B from them. It’s difficult to assess what they use for criteria for the grades they give us.”
The Princeton Review website gives the College a “green rating” of 84, but offers no specific examples of campus environmental efforts.
On greenreportcard.org’s College Sustainability Report Card, the College saw increased scores in four out of nine categories tracked by the SEI and received a B in the new category of Student Involvement.
The biggest jumps came in the categories of Administration and Climate Change and Energy — scores in both categories improved from Fs in 2007 to Cs in 2008.
In the Administration category, the report card cited the College’s Committee for Sustainability as a factor in raising the score. College President Taylor Reveley created the committee last year as part of a new sustainability plan that includes specific environmental goals for the school.
The increased Climate Change and Energy grade was attributed to the 2007 greenhouse gas inventory and the College’s 10-year emissions-reduction plan, which aims to reduce harmful emissions by 34 percent.
The new category of Student Involvement also boosted the overall score. The report cited SEAC as “highly active on campus, working on initiatives such as dining, energy and recycling.”
Despite the overall increase in grade, the report did issue some failing marks. The College retained its Fs from last year in Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement.
Zapfel identified those categories as important issues for the College. SEAC is looking to invest a portion of the revenue from the recently instituted Green Fee into environmentally responsible mutual funds.
“I’m hopeful that the changes made there — investing responsibly and the green-looking mutual funds — will help in Endowment Transparency,” Zapfel said.
Jake Reeder ’09, a former facilitator for SEAC, was also looking toward improving the sustainability grade.
“From our perspective, a C still isn’t a grade we can be proud of, but we can be proud of the improvement,” he said.
Other schools in Virginia fared well on the latest report card. The University of Virginia scored a B and Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University both earned B-s.
The College Sustainability Report Card is an annual environmental evaluation for universities in America. Overall, 300 schools are assessed using public documents and surveys sent to school administrators.