Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


March 19, 2001


Campuswide 'policy' deep
in discussion


By Michael Terrazas


Extending far beyond the temporal boundaries of the Year of Reconciliation, Emory’s efforts to reconcile itself with its own natural environment are increasingly well-documented. Both the University’s 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 University’s 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 month’s 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 policy—then in its seventh iteration, which is available at—in 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 meeting’s 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 library’s 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 Emory’s governing language, is where the parties differ—at least for now.

“As it’s 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 I’m 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 Medicine’s Council of Chairs read by radiology chair and Associate Dean William Casarella. The council’s letter listed a number of concerns, most of which were directed at language in the policy’s sixth version, which was the latest revision anyone had before the Senate meeting.

Barlett said the amendments made in the newest version addressed these concerns—version six’s 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 educated—but 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. “That’s been covered.”

This sentiment is shared by physics Professor Ray DuVarney, who chairs the Senate’s 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 Emory’s 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 such issues?

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 isn’t 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 University—curriculum, research, operations, relationships with the community—we saw many, many areas where we think Emory has important opportunities. But which is the right one—or the right 10—to 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, ‘We’re already doing this in ways we’re 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.”


Back to Emory Report March 19, 2001