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Faculty Senate Backs Sustainability Statement

April 22, 2011 — The University of Virginia's Faculty Senate, meeting April 19, unanimously endorsed a statement on sustainability to be presented to the Board of Visitors.

The statement, drafted by the Presidential Committee on Sustainability, calls for the University to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions to a maximum of 250,000 metric tons by 2025 – 25 percent below the University's 2009 emissions levels and more than a third less than is projected under current conditions.

It also calls for the University to adhere to "the highest standards of environmental stewardship and resource conservation" in dealing with issues of "waste, water, nitrogen, stream and river protection, noise and light pollution, open space protection, and conservation of the historical and cultural legacy of the community."

The statement recommends that the University "educate and engage" students, faculty, staff and the community; perform research; promote health and well-being; and foster sustainable public service. 

Under the proposal, reports on "comprehensive planning for and communication about sustainability," would go annually to the president and to the Board of Visitors every other year.  It also states that initiatives should be evaluated on the basis of benefit, cost and availability of funding.

William Keene, a research professor of environmental science in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the presidential committee, presented the proposal and reminded the senators of their sustainability resolution of three years ago.

John Brown, associate professor of science, technology and society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said the statement was "marvelously laudable," but warned that "the devil is in the details."

Keene replied that the effort is ongoing and acknowledged that it would require funding. "It is an investment that will reap benefits," he said. "These are relatively modest goals, but it is pragmatic. This is not shadows and mirrors."

Daniel Bluestone, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, suggested that the University could reduce its impact by housing more undergraduates on Grounds.

The senate approved the statement with a round of applause. It will be presented to the Board of Visitors in June.

The senators also unanimously approved two new degrees to be offered by the School of Architecture: master's and doctoral degrees in the constructed environment.

"Constructed environment" is an umbrella term encompassing four departmental disciplines in the school – architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history and urban and environmental planning.

In presenting the proposal to the senate, Architecture Dean Kim Tanzer said the degree programs would contribute to the school's knowledge base and raise its profile. She said the school will maintain  its core disciplines and the new degrees will be additional offerings.

The proposed master's degree is primarily intended as a post-professional degree. The Ph.D. is becoming more of a professional and academic requirement, Tanzer said.

The senate's Academic Affairs Committee previously endorsed the new degrees. Having been approved by the Faculty Senate, the proposal will be forwarded to the provost's office. Once the provost's office approves the plan, the degrees would need approval from the president's office, the Board of Visitors and the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia.

In other business, the senate honored Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., executive vice president and provost, both of whom are stepping down.

Garson, who was presented with a reversible bowtie, thanked the senate for working with him and with students.

"This University is great because of what you do," he said, citing the faculty's close relationship with the students and its loyalty to the University. "Over the past four years very few faculty members have left because of money. That is tremendous loyalty."

He said it is important to nurture talent within the University. Citing the April 14 educational symposium held as part of the inauguration of President Teresa A. Sullivan, he noted the vast majority of the presenters were from the U.Va. faculty and that they were learning from each other.

Garson, who is leaving U.Va. to become senior vice president for health policy and health systems at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, also praised Sandridge as his mentor. "You have done so much so well for so long, I want to give you a public ‘thank you'," he said.

Garson also praised Sullivan, noting that she could look at the University as an outsider, which the University needs because it can get insular.

"As good as you are, you can be better," he told the senators. "You can go from great to greater."

Sandridge is retiring after 44 years at the University. Faculty Senate Chair Gweneth L. West, a drama professor in the College, presented Sandridge with a cardigan sweater packaged in a paper grocery sack, which West said would appeal to Sandridge's frugality.

West, whose term as chair is expiring, passed the gavel to chair-elect Robert Kemp, Ramon W. Breeden Sr. Research Professor Ernst & Young Accountants in the McIntire School of Commerce. George Cohen, a law professor, was nominated to the post of chair-elect and, when there were no other nominations, was voted into the post by acclamation.

Mary Gibson, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing; Elizabeth Meyer, an associate professor in the School of Architecture; Stephen Patek, an associate professor in the School of Engineering; and Shayn Peirce-Cottler, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine, were nominated for two vacancies on the senate's Executive Committee. Ballots will be emailed to the senators.

— By Matt Kelly

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