Sustainability is widely discussed when students come to tour Ithaca College. Students are shuffled through LEED–certified buildings, told about composting in the dining hall and a new solar farm, painting sustainability as a core principle of the college. However, upon arriving to start their academic careers, sustainability is anything but a centerpiece of discussion.
In 2007, former President Peggy Ryan Williams signed the college onto the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, committing the college to creating a plan to reduce greenhouse gases and make structural changes to guide the college toward a more sustainable future. Two years later, the Board of Trustees committed to a Climate Action Plan pledging the college to be carbon neutral by 2050. From 2010 to 2013, there were yearly updates on the plan, but since then, no updates have been given.
In order for this plan to succeed, the students, faculty and staff of the college require transparency from the administration on the college’s progress with the plan.
For true sustainability to be successful at the college, it requires an interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach bridging gaps between academics, administration, student life and facilities. The college formerly had a sustainability position that reported directly to the provost which allowed for a successful integration of sustainability across the college, but it was eliminated in 2012 after the departure of Marian Brown, a loyal and dedicated employee of the college. Since then, the only administrative sustainability positions at the college have reported to the Office of Facilities. Because of this, it is impossible to bridge the gap between the different sectors of the college.
President Shirley M. Collado and her administration need to make a clear, public and transparent statement on the college’s commitment to sustainability. Since taking office in July, Collado hasn’t made a public statement reaffirming the college’s commitment to sustainability and the Climate Action Plan. We are asking Collado to present us the Ithaca College Environmentalists with an updated vision of sustainability for the college.
We, as the environmentalists of Ithaca College, envision a more sustainable future for the college. A future where a long-term and tangible plan for fossil fuel divestment is successfully created and implemented. The college has marketed itself as a sustainable institution, yet has not made the commitment that almost 100 colleges and universities globally have. While we have committed to limiting our fossil fuel use, we have not committed to stop investing in the companies that profit from them.
We picture a student body that has a better understanding of the principles, practices and purposes of sustainability. A student body that is, at a bare minimum, exposed to the practices of composting, public transportation and energy conservation. A student body that is able to be informed of what sustainability is through their classes, from their peers and in their residence halls. Even just a student body that would remember to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
We picture a staff that is knowledgeable about the practices of sustainability and that exhibit this knowledge in the maintenance of our campus, in preparing the food that our campus community consumes and in interacting with the greater Ithaca College community.
We picture a faculty that brings sustainability directly into their classrooms. A faculty that develops a curriculum to incorporate sustainability into every program across campus. A faculty that realizes that through their teaching of sustainability future generations will understand the importance and urgency of creating a more sustainable planet.
We picture an administration that helps to bridge the gap between these three entities. As leader of these three major areas of our campus, the administration can create an effective multidisciplinary approach ensuring the college’s commitment to a sustainable future for years to come.
Sophie Johnson and Ryan Price
Editorial board members of the The Ithaca College Environmentalists