|March 19, 2001|
|By Michael Terrazas
Extending far beyond the temporal boundaries of the Year of Reconciliation, Emorys efforts to reconcile itself with its own natural environment are increasingly well-documented. Both the Universitys recycling program and its commitment to a pedestrian-friendly campus have resulted in environmental awards, and the latter has drawn national attention from such publications as U.S. News & World Report.
But Emory does not, at present, have a comprehensive statement of principles
addressing the Universitys philosophy and commitment toward all
things sustainable. Whether such a value statement should be adopted and,
if so, how it should read is the subject of a current discussion among
many campus groups and individuals.
It started in the fall of 1999, when the Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental
Stewardship launched a grassroots campaign aimed toward the adoption of
what it called a campuswide environmental policy. The group
first looked at similar policies at other schools and then began to formulate
language appropriate for Emory. As committee members fashioned their document,
they visited with 22 separate entities on both the main campus and at
Oxford to solicit input and support.
Fast-forward to last months University Senate meeting, held Feb.
27 in Woodruff Library. Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology and chair
of the Ad Hoc Committee, presented to the Senate for the first time the
proposed policythen in its seventh iteration, which is available
at www.environment.emory.edu/who/policy.shtmlin hopes the body would
vote to recommend formally that the language be adopted by the administration
as official Emory policy.
It did not happen. What did happen was an earnest discussion about the
policy itself, the need for such a policy and whether policy
is the appropriate term in the first place.
Since it was the last item on that meetings agenda and debate was
nowhere near concluded when it came time to adjourn, Senate President
Claire Sterk tabled the proposal, and it will be discussed again at the
next meeting, on March 27 at 3:15 p.m. in the librarys Jones Room.
There are more than two sides to the debate, and all basically agree
with the principles on which the proposed policy is grounded. But how
best to pursue those goals, and whether such pursuit should be codified
into Emorys governing language, is where the parties differat
least for now.
As its written now, if it were very conservatively interpreted,
it has the potential of inhibiting growth and development of the University
in the future, and since Im responsible for implementing that growth,
I see that as a conflict, said Bob Hascall, senior associate vice
president for Facilities Management (FM).
Hascall is not the only one with this concern, which was expressed in
the Senate meeting via a letter from the School of Medicines Council
of Chairs read by radiology chair and Associate Dean William Casarella.
The councils letter listed a number of concerns, most of which were
directed at language in the policys sixth version, which was the
latest revision anyone had before the Senate meeting.
Barlett said the amendments made in the newest version addressed these
concernsversion sixs call for all Emory students, faculty
and employees to be environmentally literate was seen as possibly
mandating a certain kind of curriculum, so the new version calls for everyone
to be provided opportunities to be so educatedbut she
conceded that, when it comes to approving campus construction projects,
the critics may have a point.
This is one area where I would agree: We do not need new structures
to address the issue of building on campus, Barlett said. Thats
This sentiment is shared by physics Professor Ray DuVarney, who chairs the Senates Campus Development Committee (CDC), which voted strongly in favor of the proposed policy, he said.
Already FM presents its capital projects several times and at all stages
of development for review by both the CDC and the Committee on the Environment,
and Emorys voluntary participation in the LEEDS green building
program has been lauded by both internal and external environmental groups.
But a consciousness of sustainability extends far beyond campus development
to areas like transportation, procurement, recycling and waste disposal,
energy use and so on. How would the policy, if it were adopted, address
Even though the absence of an implementation plan was another area of
concern expressed at the Senate meeting, Barlett said this question cannot
be answered at this time. Her idea is, following approval, to establish
an implementation task force to decide how best to apply the principles
to day-to-day University operations, but this plan also prompted debate
in the Senate.
It isnt possible for us to say what might be the wisest course
before we have the people who should be part of that decision there at
the table, Barlett said. When we were looking at all the different
parts of the Universitycurriculum, research, operations, relationships
with the communitywe saw many, many areas where we think Emory has
important opportunities. But which is the right oneor the right
10to go forward with first?
Barlett also said she agrees with both DuVarney and Hascall in that the
name of the document should be changed. A policy, they all
said, implies a specific set of rules, not a broad statement of vision
and principle. And all sides also said they are open to cooperation in
further refining the language in hopes that a document on which everyone
agrees can finally be reached.
The overwhelming response [from the 22 groups consulted] was, Were already doing this in ways were proud of, and we want to do a lot more. If we could get a signal like this from the University, it would help us enormously. Barlett said. We heard that over and over again.