In September, President Adam Falk and the Board of Trustees announced the College’s plans to pursue a change in “educational mission” relating to the environment with the introduction of a campus-wide theme of inquiry called “Confronting Climate Change” for the 2016-17 academic year. The program will include the addition of two new faculty whose research focuses on climate change.
Last year, Falk and the Board of Trustees rejected a divestment initiative put forth by students and faculty members, which called for the College to divest its endowment of funds from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. According to Falk, the change in “educational mission” is a way for the College to participate in ongoing efforts to curb climate change despite the decision to reject divestment. Parallels have also been drawn to similar existing efforts to address climate change at other institutions, such as Columbia and Middlebury.
“This program began as one of these realizations that the College needed to be in a position where we’re leading and working on this issue of climate change and the environment, so it’s a problem we’ve decided to take on from a number of different directions,” Daniel Lynch, professor of biology, said.
As part of this environmental initiative, the College is creating two new positions for faculty whose research and teaching will focus on climate change. While the College has not decided which departments will hire new professors, the scholarship of the new faculty members is expected to focus on both the science of climate change and related public policy. So far, several departments have submitted proposals for potential positions; current professors named geosciences, economics, biology and chemistry as departments that were likely to end up fielding one of the new faculty positions.
In addition to creating two new faculty positions, the administration has formed the College Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC), a committee of that will advise Falk and other administrators on how to proceed with the initiative. The committee will also produce recommendations for the administration in areas of waste reduction, carbon emissions reduction and overall improvement of sustainability.
“The committee is just trying to put out as many ideas as we can … you can get significant changes in the College’s carbon footprint with not too much in the way of expenses or changing behaviors, especially with making the buildings, like the hall replacing Bronfman, more energy efficient, or by reducing waste in the dining halls,” Lynch, a member of CEAC, said.
Members of CEAC explained that the focus on climate change is also meant to increase awareness of the College’s environmental impact.
“I think there will have to be some changing of thoughts and behaviors and practices from students and faculty. If people start thinking about what they’re doing, once something is in place, new students coming in will probably pick up these good habits from the upperclassmen,” Lynch said.