Change is coming to the University of Kentucky. With a student body of nearly 22,000, coming mostly from the Commonwealth but also from many other states and, indeed, countries, it was only a matter of time before the University began to grow in nontraditional ways. In lieu of the University’s goal to become a top 20 research institution, UK has begun to enact policies that have reflected the change in attitude seen all over the nation. One such issue that the students have shown interest in bringing to the forefront of the University is that of sustainability.
Established in 2008, the Sustainability Advisory Board is responsible for being informed on the issues of the state of the environment on UK’s campus. The council of students was given an initial budget of $25,000, to be set aside for sustainability programming in the 2008 academic year. That funding helped to start the Sustainability Lecture Series, which showcased prominent members of the environmental movement, such as Vandana Shiva -- a founding member of Navdanya, an Indian research organization that promotes people's rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food. The Lecture Series will also feature Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on September 16 as he discusses both our environmental and economic futures. (The event will be held in Memorial Coliseum and is free to the students and only ten dollars to the public.)
In order to aid the Advisory Board's efforts, the University’s Board of Trustees recently approved a new environmental stewardship fee of 75 cents per semester for the 2009-10 school year. This fee would provide roughly $35,000 in funds to be used by the Student Sustainability Council, and will be used to institutionalize the Sustainability Lecture Series and the undergraduate internship that plans the series.
The University has engaged in multiple sustainability efforts in the past year since the Advisory Board was formed, including creating the institution’s first Policy Statement on Sustainability. This statement, found here
, outlines the commitment of the University, a cogent definition of “sustainability”, its cardinal principles, and implementation plans. The organization’s efforts can be viewed here
, and include many aspects of the University’s revised policies, particularly pertaining to resident life and involvement, and energy consumption on campus.
It is truly a wonderful thing that a state funded university of this size has taken an initiative to become more environmentally aware of its impact on the world at large. These efforts are in part responsible by the UK Greenthumb Environmental Club which helped to organize An Evening with the Mountain Keepers, which I mentioned in my first blog post
Greenthumb can be credited with a major amount of student involvement when it comes to the environment, something that is a refreshing addition to state-allocated budgets that often do not reflect the core desires of its residents. Although it has been a rough road to reach a mere 75 cents per student, it is efforts like those recently pursued by the University of Kentucky that truly make higher education worthwhile. Afterall, the University is providing students with the freedom to change what they don’t agree with -- even if it comes wrapped in red tape.