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Reinharz signs climate pledge

Published: September 21, 2007
Section: News


President Reinharz signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) on Wednesday, Sept. 12, after being approached by the co-presidents of Students for Environmental Action (SEA) two days prior.

The Presidents Climate Commitment is a movement to encourage American colleges and universities to reduce their environmental impact through a set of proscribed action plans.

According to the groups official website, signing the commitment is an agreement to first initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible, [second], initiate tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed, and finally, to make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available by providing them to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for posting and dissemination. At present, 400 university presidents have signed the agreement.

According to SEA co-president Stephanie Sofer 09, interest in the ACUPCC first began when SEA learned of it through the Brandeis Environmental Sustainability Team (BEST), an organization comprised of students from SEA, faculty, and representatives from Facilities and Dining Services.

Sofer explained her belief in the importance of the ACUPCC. This is something that we care about as citizens of the world, she said, you cant open a New York Times and not read about environmental issues. Its a hot topic of this generation.

In order to show [President Reinharz] that there was student support behind this [initiative], we wrote up a petition, according to other SEA co-president Jamie Pottern 09.

She continued, at the first SEA meeting, we wanted to start offwith a bangwe handed out petitions to get as many signatures as possible so we could present it to Reinharz. Sofer added, within 2 school days, we had over 500 signatures
from students and 10 faculty.

Additionally, Student Union President Shreeya Sinha 09 posted a press release on the union website Sept. 9 in support of the initiative.

Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray 10, who himself signed SEAs petition, explained, The Student Union supported SEAs initiative and we wanted to let the administration know that. He continued, its really nice when our priorities as students are in line with the administrations.

Pottern and Sofer then sent Reinharz a letter explaining their petition prior to visiting him at his student office hours on Sept. 10.

Sofer explained, When we showed up he already knew the purpose of our visithe said he was positively inclined to sign the commitment.

She continued, his reservations were that he wanted to make sure students do their part to make our campus environmentally sustainable. [He said,] its not the president whos solely responsible for making our campus green. The onus is on the student day to day.

After their meeting with Reinharz, Pottern and Sofer were encouraged but unsure if Reinharz would sign the commitment by Sept. 15 in order to become a charter
signatory.

Sofer said, [President Reinharz] never outright told us but other administrators said that his reservations were not only based on students taking responsibility. There is a cost to this. The university does have to spend money to make institutional changes. He had to make sure that it was feasible.

President Reinharz was out of town during the printing of this publication and did not respond to interview requests.

In an email to The Hoot John Hose, Executive Assistant to the President and Associate Vice President for University Affairs, explained, a study group reviewed
the Climate Commitment, its requirements and implications for Brandeis as a signatory to it, and recommended that Brandeis support the statement. Based on the considerations noted above, coupled with the recommendation of the study group, President Reinharz was pleased to endorse the Climate Commitment.

Hose added, Brandeis over the past several years has been taking steps with respect to new construction, renovation of existing facilities, infrastructure renewal and recycling initiatives that are entirely consistent with and supportive of the Climate Commitment.

Sofer stated that the ACUPCC really lays out a feasible and flexible framework geared to making the university climate neutral by giving them options that suit them best.

This framework includes a list of seven tangible actions. Universities must implement two in order to comply with the ACUPCC.

Two of the things on that list we already do, said Sofer. She cited work with the New England Wind Fund and efforts towards waste minimization.

Of the tangible actions, Pottern said, a lot of them are steps that wouldnt be that costly or drastic. Other universities have been doing these things.

Sofer added, Why is Brandeis any different? We believe in social responsibility. It behooves us to take these necessary steps.

One of the tangible actions includes an environmentally-friendly building policy. Despite student efforts in the past, the new Ridgewood residence hall will not meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards of certification.

Pottern explained, They are putting sustainable features into the buildingit is more eco-friendly than the previous Ridgewood [but] they could be doing a lot more. It doesnt have any renewable energy features such as solar panels.

Student response thus far has been positive. Rachel Pulinthitta 10 said I think its great that the President signed it because now our campus is part of a bigger change that our generation is very passionate about.

Amanda DiSanto 09 commented, a lot of cities are feeling pressure to acknowledge global warmingcorporations and universities are following that precedent. Its not a shocking move but one that definitely needed to happen
and Im glad Brandeis is doing it in a timely fashion.

Sofer added that affiliating with the ACUPCC makes a statement. People who apply to Brandeis care about social consciousness. This is a way for the university to make a statement that we have a sense of social responsibilityit makes the university look good because theyre taking a stand on something that is important to the world.

Sofer also sees Brandeis participation in the ACUPCC as a learning opportunity. She said, It is my hope that what you learn here you will carry with you once you leave BrandeisIve learned a lot outside of the classroom from the passions and pursuits of students who care about issues that affect the world.