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Time for an environmental president

Sylvia Krebs

As President Cornwell moves on to a warmer climate, it is time to consider a new president that is committed to and prioritizes environmental sustainability on our campus. Throughout Cornwell’s presidency, we have made progress in sustainability efforts.

He presided over the building of the Gold-Leadership-in-Energy-&-Environmental Design-certified Scot Center with its solar panels and the major energy switch from coal to natural gas. These are steps in the right direction. We need to continue this legacy of environmentalism and enhance it for the future.

Our next president should provide short and long-term strategies that save energy, reduce waste and eliminate unnecessary cost. If we want to become a globally-oriented liberal arts college, then we need to continually recognize and act on climate change impacts that not only affect us here at Wooster, but reduce our global footprint.

Wooster lags behind comparable peer institutions that have been pioneers in green initiatives like Oberlin and Allegheny. These institutions are not far away from us in proximity or purpose, so there is no reason why we cannot put a similar emphasis on sustainability.

In the upcoming years, we should hire a sustainability coordinator — the position has been vacant since the departure of Sb Loder ’12. This position should become an integral part of our campus community. The sustainability coordinator acts as an advocate and facilitator for green initiatives and communicates with students, faculty, staff and administration.

Without a professional Sustainability coordinator integrated into the operations of the College, important environmentally conscious perspectives are often lost. This can be frustrating and discouraging for students, as it hinders the advancement of a positive environmental mission that everyone on campus supports.

A renewed and increased support for our environmental mission must extend into academic life. We need to bolster our environmental studies department. Student engagement in environmental studies is growing, which has been fostered by the outstanding efforts on part of the faculty. However, there is only one full-time professor of environmental studies, and interested students can only declare an environmental studies minor. In order for the College to take the following step in supporting student interest, the next administration should incorporate environmental studies as a major and contemplate hiring the necessary faculty members.

Wooster needs leadership in addressing climate change and incorporating sustainability in our curriculum. The next president has the opportunity to sign onto the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a pledge that more than 650 colleges and universities have committed to, in order to create a climate action plan. Although students have campaigned for this in the past, The College of Wooster has yet to sign the pledge.

It makes sense that the next president should have a “green mindset.” There are social, environmental and economic advantages in pursuing any of the considerations mentioned above. Wooster can become a lean, green fighting Scot machine for many generations to come. We have enthusiasm. We just need the support.

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