May 21, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 90°F

Opinion

Editorial: Sustainability at IC continues to deteriorate

True: Ithaca, New York is the first city to begin 100% decarbonization of all buildings which is said to be complete by 2030. But what must fail for this plan to thrive? With Ithaca College’s focus on reducing carbon emissions, other aspects of sustainability are decreasing. The Academic Program Prioritization (APP) was responsible for the elimination of a number of programs and departments recent job cuts and resignations. Sandra Steingraber, former distinguished scholar in residence in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, left the college following the finalization of the faculty cuts, resulting in the loss of the proposed Ithaca College Center for Climate Justice

The problem with a lack of staffing is glaring and has trickled into the Office of Energy Management and Sustainability (OEMS) rendering it nearly non-existent. Currently, the college does not have a director of OEMS, and the position of campus sustainability coordinator has been terminated due to budget cuts. The decisions made by the college for financial survival are negatively and directly affecting the environment. Institutional survival once again takes precedence over environmental initiatives.

It now feels ironic that the City of Ithaca found itself on the national stage in November 2021 with big plans to decarbonize, but we have since seen a deteriorating culture of sustainability at the college. This swift shift from environmentalism to economics is harmful to overall campus sustainability but not shocking. With a lack of financial backing from the college, inconsistency of leadership positions and the non-prioritization of sustainability staff, we can no longer applaud ourselves for our sustainability efforts.

Community members and students cannot become lazy or discouraged by the college’s lack of prioritization to important sustainability efforts. We cannot become blinded by the grand-scale good of the decarbonization plan and start leaving behind the small, simpler but just as important things like recycling. There has been an increase in excessive litter across campus. This is unfair to 1) the staff members in the Department of Facilities and Ground Transportation who have to pick up what is not theirs to throw away (and are majorly understaffed with four unfilled staff positions on ground maintenance) and 2) the environment. The college community must continue to care for the environment from the ground up. 

The Ithacan can be reached at ithacan@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @IthacanOnline