November 16, 2007
To: The University Community
I am today appointing Provost Ralph Kuncl and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Science and Engineering Peter Lennie to co-chair a University Council on Environmental Sustainability. I am also appointing the following individuals as members of this Council:
In addition, Board of Trustees Chair Robert Witmer and Board members Nathan Moser and Janice Willett have agreed to serve as a Board Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. It is my anticipation that the student and faculty members of the Council will reach out to other interested students and faculty in the course of the Council's deliberations.
Few issues present a more global challenge than environmental sustainability. Much of the response to this challenge inevitably will involve national or international efforts. But the University of Rochester, as with many colleges and universities, for a considerable period has been engaged in efforts to do our part to minimize the adverse impact of our operations on the environment.
This past spring, to prepare for this Council, I asked Ronald Paprocki to form a task force to provide an inventory of existing programs that address environmental sustainability and to recommend strategies that particularly focused on university operations. The Report of this Task Force is attached. Besides highlighting a number of significant University initiatives such as our new cogeneration plant and our compliance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, it is noteworthy that in 2006 the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2 awarded the University of Rochester its Environmental Quality Award.
The Task Force nonetheless recognized that “the University’s efforts have not been as systematic and as well communicated as programs at other institutions” and proposed a Statement of Commitment and Environmental Sustainability Principles:
The Task Force specifically recommended 25 separate initiatives:
I have asked Ron working with the Task Force to augment the attached report with a further chart or memorandum that summarizes which of these initiatives is ongoing and what the probable cost of future proposed initiatives will be.
The charge of the new Council on Environmental Sustainability is three-fold:
By February 15, 2008, I would like the Council first to develop a proposed University-wide vision for environmental sustainability that also addresses academic and research initiatives. This effort should work closely with the strategic planning process that is already under way in each School.
Second, I would like the Council to review the specific initiatives, particularly those that are proposed largely or entirely for future implementation, and recommend which should be implemented consistent with the Schools’ strategic plans and whether these recommendations should be sequenced over time. This is an area of review that will require thoughtful balancing. For example, if the University were to commit to the purchase of additional electricity generated through wind power this today would cost approximately 15 to 20 percent over other available electricity. These resources, then, would not be available to support other University priorities such as student aid or academic programs.
Third, I would also like the Council to endorse or modify the proposed Environmental Sustainability Principles, based in part on its review of what our academic and research proposals concerning environmental sustainability should be and its review of the 25 proposed initiatives.
In the course of its deliberations, the Council may choose to investigate what our carbon footprint should be and what other initiatives it believes to be wise.
I anticipate that a presentation of the Council’s recommendations will be made to the University’s Board of Trustees at its March 2008 meeting and that the Council’s recommendations will include a proposal for future review of our progress.
In the broadest sense, I am proposing a University wide conversation about an issue that will affect all of our lives. I wanted to provide a well-informed basis for this conversation and I am deeply grateful to the Task Force on Sustainability for its thoughtful and detailed work that will provide a well-developed background for all of us.
What I ultimately seek are Principles and initiatives that both will make the University of Rochester a leader in environmental sustainability and that are well harmonized with our ongoing strategic planning initiatives. I look forward to joining the University Council at its initial meeting and to our University making further significant progress in the years to come in this vital area of concern for all of us.