Students and faculty address sustainability in campus infrastructure in open letter

Kirsten Wessel, Staff Writer


I​n an effort to facilitate open communication and support a campus­-wide discussion of sustainability, a group of students, faculty, and staff came together to write an open letter to the newly ­formed President’s Sustainability Council addressing the future of campus infrastructure.

“It is my hope that by challenging ourselves to view sustainability holistically across the entire University, we can continue to construct a vibrant liberal arts learning environment that fully embraces the many challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” University President John Bravman said at last week’s Sustainability Forum.

As part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), the University committed to work toward zero net carbon emissions by 2030, as published in the University’s 2010 Climate Action Plan.

“We committed to aiming for net­ zero carbon emissions by 2030. It’s 2016. We’re not on track for that,” Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Amanda Wooden said. “Certainly the new buildings have made improvements from the past, and that’s good. But improving on a past that wasn’t good doesn’t mean that we’re on track to meet the goals that we have for ourselves and the commitments we’ve made.”

Sustainability in current and future campus infrastructure has long been a topic of conversation among University students and faculty and has recently culminated in the writing of the letter, entitled “Statement about Sustainable Design for Academic East.”​

“The letter and open forum was a way that students and faculty could voice their opinion about Academic East and greater sustainability on campus,” Amanda Fazio ’16 said. “From my perspective, we learn about sustainability every day in class, but sometimes those practices aren’t present on our campus itself. A voice in the design of Academic East would be a big step forward in this direction and the forum and letter called for that.”

On a campus abundant with professional expertise in fields such as engineering and environmental science, it becomes clear how useful this knowledge could be in University construction projects such as Academic East.

“If Bucknell expects to become a leader of sustainability, we have to take some risks instead of adhering to the standard set by Academic West,” Elaine Lac ’16 said. “I believe emphasizing student involvement in the design of the future Academic East building is a chance for students’ vision of sustainability on campus to come alive. Bucknell University should be striving to cultivate leaders of the environmental field and this is one very tangible way for students to have some agency and hands-on experience.”

The ultimate goal is to move beyond these standards and to push an integrated design process to ensure the University is functioning at its best.

“​In an integrated design process, what you’re trying to do is to understand what people on campus imagine for the future of campus. It’s actually really positive. We can imagine something better,” Wooden said. “We suggest that the best way to do this is through gaining input from all the people on campus who have ideas and who want to express what they think about what meeting these goals look like. That process itself will be educational and inspiring. It really could be a totally rewarding process, but we need to make that shift.”

“We want a guiding philosophy that reorients us and shifts us towards a sustainable campus to meet the commitments we’ve already made, including the [ACUPCC] which we are currently not on track to meet, that is aesthetically inspiring and melds the historical elements of Bucknell with ideas of the future and a building that can inspire us in those multiple ways,” Wooden said.

“It is imperative for Academic East’s design to be bettered,” Lac said. “I want future and current Bucknell students to be inspired by the design of Academic East so that they believe they too can be innovators and trendsetters in the environmental field.”

The letter is now publicly available for signatures.

Pull­out quote: “​We want a building that inspires us to be more sustainable and to learn about the full meaning of sustainability, but also we want a building that inspires us because it’s beautiful.” (Wooden).

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