The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
This past weekend, Miami University’s class of 2023 arrived in Oxford with the standard jam-packed schedule featuring residence hall move-in, fireworks, a class photo on Yager Field and ending with Sunday’s Convocation ceremony.
Convocation’s keynote speaker, Stephanie Anderson, is the author of “One Size Fits None.” The book, which was Miami’s 2019 summer reading pick, focuses on the importance of developing sustainable food systems in response to the growing global threat of climate change.
The bulk of Anderson’s speech centered on climate change, how it has impacted and will continue to impact our society and the role universities will play in creating a more sustainable future.
“In the coming years, colleges will be measured not only by how well they prepare students for a career, but also by how well they prepare those students to live, work, create, communicate and lead in a world shaped by climate change,” Anderson said.
So, how does Miami measure up?
While Anderson did commend the efforts that Miami has made toward becoming more sustainable, our editorial board still believes more needs to be done to demonstrate Miami truly understands the gravity of the problem.
Miami is always sure to tout and greenwash their sustainability stats. If you check out Miami’s Sustainability and Commitment Goals, it certainly looks like we attend a sustainability-minded university. The problem is, though, that actions speak far louder than any PR-curated website can.
This isn’t to say Miami hasn’t done anything. The efforts the university has made to create a more environmentally conscious institution are worth praise.
In 2016, Miami announced it’s goal of reducing the university’s yearly carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020. The university exceeded that goal by 2018. The university also received a gold rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) in 2019.
In light of these successes, Miami’s administration continues to say they support forming a culture focused on sustainability, and has emphasized their support for sustainability curriculum in classrooms.
But with these small successes, we are only just beginning to break the surface of sustainability issues on campus.
Miami is quick to boast about their efforts toward relying more on renewable energy, but the Geothermal Heat Exchange only runs to ten campus buildings, according to the Utility Systems pamphlet distributed by the physical facilities department.
In Miami’s STARS report, the university received a 0.17 out of 4 in clean and renewable energy. Their food and beverage purchasing practices were rated a 0.61 out of 6.00, and 1.19 out of 8 on learning outcomes focused on sustainability. In terms of sustainability literacy assessment, Miami scored 0 out of 4.
Inviting Anderson as the convocation keynote is a fantastic way to signal that these things matter to our campus, but too many questions remain unanswered: What are we going to do about it? How will Miami build on the progress it has made?
The impact of food, especially in terms of waste, is hardly dealt with here on campus, yet food waste makes up a large chunk of Anderson’s book. There is no uniform composting program across campus. Food packaging and to-go containers continue to fill Miami trash bins when universities across the country have undertaken programs with reusables and have dramatically cut the number of packaged goods sold on campuses.
Anderson encouraged students to use their time in college as a time to allow their beliefs to be challenged, to take the knowledge they gain and use it to reconstruct their understanding of the world and their own position in it. She referred to this process as a “reorientation.”
Our staff believes that all of Miami could benefit from a reorientation.
The threat of climate change is an issue every student at Miami is going to have to navigate, not just the class of 2023. It’s an issue everyone who plans to be alive 11 years from now will have to deal with – because that’s when it will become irreversible if drastic changes are not undertaken.
Miami needs to lead by example and adopt on-campus practices that encourage wide-spread sustainability at every level — not just focus on easily attainable, favorable statistics
Our university must recognize this is just the beginning. The threat of climate change is ever-evolving and complex, but Miami continues to put forth the same PR-centric ideas of what a sustainable campus looks like without changing the core culture of our campus community.
It’s time to reorient, Miami.