Members of President’s Sustainability Council discuss plans, respond to criticism

Charles Beers, News Editor

Members of the University President’s Sustainability Council (PSC) led a presentation in the ELC Forum on March 31. This event was a part of the University’s annual Sustainability Symposium, sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and the Environment and the Environmental Humanities Working Group. The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session open to students and faculty, who were invited to submit questions for the council to discuss.

The forum began with Ken Ogawa, Sustainability Council chair and associate vice president of facilities, providing an overview of the council’s current activities and long-term goals for future sustainability. The goals for each subcommittee were explained to the audience, most of which involved the University achieving carbon neutrality.

“The PSC comprises 11 subcommittees made up of 86 students, faculty and staff. Each subcommittee is preparing recommendations specific to their respective areas and charges,” Ogawa said. “Once the Council has reviewed and consolidated those recommendations, we intend on seeking the campus community’s feedback on a draft plan prior to submitting it to the Board of Trustees.​”

The council received criticism from the crowd regarding the fact that the University is not divesting from fossil fuels and is not hosting public discussions about this decision.

“I was disappointed that individuals were unwilling to commit to further transparency, especially with University investments, as this type of transparency, discussing issues laying out reasoning before the entire community, is key for engagement on campus,” Sam Jacobson ’17 said.

One of the initiatives that Ogawa emphasized in his presentation was the Eco-Rep program.

“The program will use student Eco-Reps to promote sustainable behavior within their residence halls,” Ogawa said. “Thanks to a team of dedicated students and staff who have spent the semester developing this initiative, we are almost ready to launch this program, and expect to selecting Eco-Reps who will start in fall 2017.”

The idea received mixed reviews from the audience.

“I was unimpressed with this program as it is highly dependent on consistent year-on-year participation of students, which I think is difficult to inspire,” Jacobson said. “I would have liked to hear more about institutional initiatives towards sustainability, like why LEED was the building standard used.”

Despite these criticisms, those in attendance were thankful for the opportunity to speak their mind about the University’s progress on sustainability and learn more information about the council’s plans.

“An informed campus is an active campus,” Jacobson said. “I did learn a lot about aspects of sustainability that are ongoing, like the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) regulations guiding investments, and the difficulties of composting.”

Hannah Paton ’17, an intern in the department of facilities, commended the community for coming out to express their opinions regarding the council’s sustainability plans.

“The Sustainability Council did a good job of fielding some tough questions from the audience. I think the panel meeting revealed which initiatives the council needs to focus on next and made it clear what results the public wants to see from council,” Paton said. “I think attendees and council members both want to create a Bucknell that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable and having transparent and public conversations about these issues will be the best way to move forward.”

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