Administrators at last night’s Town Hall meeting announced the significant achievements and work left to accomplish in directing UR towards a sustainable future. Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Kuncl led the discussion concerning the suggestions that the Council on Environmental Sustainability will recommend to UR President Joel Seligman.
“President Seligman charged us with a very difficult task in a foreshortened time to propose the University of Rochester’s vision for sustainability,” Kuncl said.
Kuncl began the meeting, saying that the committee broke into groups to assess costs and to recommend specific steps that they felt should be implemented.
“The University is doing a lot of excellent work,” Kuncl said. “We will be writing a final report to President Seligman and the Board of Trustees within a matter of weeks.”
Kuncl then turned the mic over to Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Ronald Paprocki. Paprocki outlined the areas that the committee had slated for improvement. These topics include waste management and construction, purchasing and business practices, transportation and parking, dining services and communications.
Paprocki suggested that if people are interested in finding out more information about the recommendations, they should check out the newly created Web site dedicated to sustainability at http://www.rochester.edu/sustainability/index.html.
Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering Benjamin Ebenhack spoke next about the current academic course and degree options at UR relating to sustainability.
“We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is there are some initiatives underway. A fair number of students have gotten involved in various ways,” he said.
“The bad news is we don’t know what we’re all doing. There is not a particularly well-coordinated and concerted effort.”
More specifically, Ebenhack outlined the different programs in the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering in which students interested in sustainability may participate. He mentioned that there are currently five juniors who are emerging sustainability majors and six Take Five and Kauffman Entrepreneurial Program students who are pursuing sustainability programs. Paprocki said that, in his opinion, these are fairly impressive numbers. He also said that there are clusters and individualized courses available in this area and that the number of students who are interested in sustainability appears to be increasing over time.
“I think that the Simon School is becoming more involved with time and has also collaborated with the Kauffman Program,” Ebenhack said.
He remarked that entrepreneurship is a vehicle to understand sustainability.
In addition, the Eastman School of Music, the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the School of Nursing and the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development are involved in the effort to promote efforts to improve sustainability at UR.
Finally, Assistant Director of Public Relations Lori Packer addressed the audience in regards to the Web site that has been created.
“It just launched three weeks ago, so it’s fairly new,” Packer said. “[However, it has already received] about a dozen comments, which, believe me, is huge.”
Most of the comments were about recycling and how students can personally help the problem.
Following Packer’s suggestion that students visit the Web site, Kuncl invited audience members to ask questions.
Graduate student Patrick McLaughlin asked, “Is there a list of goals or milestones?”
Paprocki responded that the committee does not have any goals yet, but that they are trying to assess the financial and environmental impacts of the plans that they have devised. He said that they need to gain more information so that they can come to students and faculty with an idea of the impact that the changes will make for the environment and in everyone’s life. Research Assistant Professor of Environmental Medicine Katrina Korfmacher added that they need to analyze the potential consequences their suggestions might lead to.
Senior Vice President and Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering Peter Lennie, who is co-chair of the Council, said that the Council was not created to make policies. Its purpose is to illustrate possible solutions and to give suggestions to those who will organize and plan in the future.
One audience member asked how the Council planned to get the word out about its programs.
“Be redundantly repetitive; say your message many times,” Kuncl said.
Packer said that, in terms of communication, it is important to inform the public about what the University is doing as a whole, as well as to share ways in which individuals can contribute. President of the Students’ Association and junior Alvin Lomibao said that it is important to use many different sources, such as campus media groups, Facebook, posters and, most importantly, word-of-mouth to spread information.
Kuncl explained that sustainability will require future commitment to difficult problems and discussion.
“This will take years of concerted effort,” Kuncl said.
Handis is a member of the class of 2009.