President Shepard updates Sustainability Advisory Committee on 2014-15 priorities

Western Today staff

Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard sent the following memo (also attached below) to Steve Hollenhorst and John Furman, co-chairs of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, on Tuesday, Sept. 23:

As noted in my recent blog posting, action by the Western Washington University
Foundation has, appropriately I believe, put the University front and center and
responsible for meaningful actions to address issues of climate change.

I am confident that the people who are Western – faculty, staff, students, alumni … - join
with me in welcoming that responsibility. When it comes to sustainability and climate
change, Western has long been a leader. As I put it in the blog, though, that proud past is
prologue. What next? The gravity of the issue, the passion of our students, faculty, and
staff, and the need not to rest on our laurels demands that we take stock of and then
accelerate our efforts.

Western being Western, with decades of commitment to supporting global environmental
health, we do not begin from scratch. We were charter signatories to the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment. And, as called for in making that
commitment, we developed and adopted a Climate Action Plan.

Commitments and plans are essential first steps. But, progress is paramount. What
progress has been made? What more can we be doing?

Western’s University Sustainability Advisory Committee is exactly the body to lead us in
pursuing those questions. The committee is broadly representative of the relevant
expertise among faculty, students, and staff and comes to the task experienced in the
relevant topics. And, you already have on your agenda, it is my understanding, the review
and updating of our campus sustainability plans.

So, I am writing to expand that established agenda. I charge the University Sustainability
Committee as follows:

Your Charter establishes “sustainability throughout the University” as the committee’s focus. That focus most certainly subsumes the critical issue of human impacts on the environment.

To date, the committee has, understandably and appropriately, focused on steps to reduce Western's carbon footprint. Thereby, you help us fulfill commitments, sustain a leadership position in walking the talk, and are about making tangible improvements. However, the university also has achievements, responsibilities, and opportunities to address climate change beyond those involving direct resource uses and choices. These other functions are in curricula and instruction, research and scholarship, and as a venue for passionate discussion and debate. In the directions that follow, please include this broader scope of Western’s current and potential involvement.

With regard to both the commitments we made in signing the President’s Climate Commitment and the strategies and actions and objective in the Western Washington University Climate Action Plan,

1. For both, critically review and then report on progress made to date on components of the plan and the commitment. Do evaluate the current status of each as exemplary, satisfactory, or deficient and include analysis of reasons for areas of deficiency as well as for areas where progress has been satisfactory or better.

2. From our already established commitments and your subsequent findings and analyses, offer the prioritized recommendations that then logically follow: for action steps to fulfill the components of the President’s Climate Commitment and modifications, updates, or extension of Western’s Climate Action Plan. Include recommended action steps required to fulfill that plan along with timeframes for completion and estimated resource implications (e.g., costs, savings).

In so doing, I ask that you involve faculty, staff and students in your efforts through open, transparent, and participatory means.

I further ask that you look for opportunities to engage graduate students and undergraduates (perhaps class projects?) in this work of the committee.

Please consider that you have full and prompt access to my office in any matters where I or the Vice Presidents might be of assistance. I will arrange, at your earliest convenience, an opportunity for the vice presidents and me to meet with you both to provide clarifications, to discuss processes for fulfilling my direction to the committee, to identify support needs to assure high quality and timely results (e.g., support of a graduate research assistant), and to set a timeline for the fulfillment of the charge.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue for our campus community, for our state, for our world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 11:00am