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Statement of President Joel Seligman on Environmental Sustainability

March 25, 2008

In February 2008, the University Council on Environmental Sustainability, co-chaired by Provost Ralph Kuncl and Dean Peter Lennie, reported to me. This report is attached. The Council on Environmental Sustainability built on the earlier work of a Sustainability Task Force, chaired by Senior Vice President Ronald Paprocki, that had inventoried University environmental sustainability initiatives, articulated a Statement of Commitment and Environmental Sustainability Principles, and identified 25 specific ongoing or proposed sustainability initiatives in the areas of energy, waste management, recycling, purchasing, business practices, land use, building design, construction, transportation, parking, and dining services.

I charged the University Council to:

  1. Develop a University-wide vision for environmental sustainability that also addressed academic and research initiatives.
  2. Review the Task Force’s 25 initiatives and make recommendations regarding their implementation and sequencing.
  3. Endorse or modify the Task Force’s proposed Principles, based on its consideration of research and academic proposals.

The Council’s report focused on four basic areas:

First, the Council refined and prioritized the list of the 25 operational initiatives. The Council proposed a specific timeframe for implementing these initiatives, to establish and develop metrics for gauging progress on current and future University-wide initiatives, and to link operational initiatives to academic programs through faculty supervised projects. Given the need for initiative-by-initiative review of certain of these projects and the potential significant costs involved, this represented a major area of the Council’s recommendations.

Second, the Council proposed a provisional Vision for Sustainability, providing a starting point for a longer-term, University-wide conversation to result in an integrated roadmap for sustainability at the University of Rochester.

Third, the Council endorsed and modified the Task Force’s Statement of Commitment and Environmental Sustainability.

Fourth, the Council recommended the creation of a small University Council on Sustainability to provide integrated advice on all matters relating to sustainability including research, curriculum, campus operations, and community.

To implement these proposals generally, I will support creating a University Council on Sustainability for five years that will: (1) provide me an annual review each January of our progress with respect to the current and future operational initiatives described above; (2) describe University-wide faculty and student academic initiatives with respect to environmental sustainability; (3) establish an ongoing comprehensive catalogue of sustainability initiatives at the University and develop a web site and other media to communicate the University’s sustainability initiatives; and (4) recommend new initiatives that the University might undertake in areas of environmental sustainability, including speakers, forums, or similar means of University conversation.

Specifically, I am today appointing Provost Ralph Kuncl and Senior Vice President Ronald Paprocki as Co-Chairs of this Council. Ron will serve as Chair with respect to Council review of the current and future operational initiatives described earlier in this statement. Ralph will serve as Chair with respect to all other issues before the Council. I will additionally appoint the following members for the balance of this academic year and subsequent years: two faculty with expertise in environmental sustainability who will be chosen by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee; four ex officio members, one each to be chosen by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Student Association President (offering a new appointment each year), the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, and the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences; and a staff liaison from the Facilities Department having responsibilities in environmental sustainability.

In adopting the proposed University Council on Sustainability in this form, I am sensitive to two overarching principles. First, I want each proposal with material budgetary significance to flow through the normal processes for budgetary review. This includes consultation with the divisions, review by my office, and when appropriate by the relevant Board committee. Just as we now engage in this type of annual budgetary review of each division of the University, the significance of several of the 25 current and future operational initiatives makes this an appropriate means to review these important initiatives. Second, we are a decentralized University where the role of academic divisions is emphasized. While I am comfortable with a University Council that reports on progress with respect to environmental sustainability and proposed future initiatives, I want to be sensitive to our traditional decentralized decisional and budgetary model.

I anticipate that the Council will have an organizational meeting this spring but begin its real work in the fall semester.

Let me express my gratitude to the members of the University Council on Environmental Sustainability: Raffaella Borasi, Kendra Bussey, Patricia Chiverton, Jessica Foster (Staff to the Council), Harry Groenevelt, David Guzick, Katrina Smith Korfmacher, Ralph Kuncl (Council Co-Chair), Peter Lennie (Council Co-Chair), Alvin Lomibao, Douglas Lowry, Bill Murphy, Nathan Moser, Ron Paprocki, Lori Packer, Kevin Parker, Carol Shuherk (Staff to the Council), Kirk Swenson, James Thompson, Robert Witmer, Janice Willett, James Zavislan, and Mark Zupan. They have advanced this university’s commitment to addressing one of the fundamental global issues of our time. I look forward to working with the successor University Council on Sustainability as we make further progress.