A C grade on a report card is not exactly the mark most students aspire for, especially in a class they worked hard in. Yet this is exactly what happened to USF when “The College Sustainability Report Card” gave USF a C on their environmental sustainability. The CSRC is a survey published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (a special project by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors) that is the only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability. It evaluates the colleges and universities with the 300 largest endowments in the United States and Canada.
According to the CSRC’s web site, the data collection took place from June 2008 to August 2008. Each school was evaluated according to nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement. Schools were awarded points if they satisfied the indicators that were within the nine categories. One example of an indicator is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. School size and geographic setting were taken into account as well. All nine categories were equally weighed on a 4.0 scale, which gave them their overall grade.
USF received low grades in the categories of administration, climate change and energy, green building, student involvement, endowment transparency, and shareholder engagement. The explanation for the administration’s low grade according to the website is that only “some residence hall directors and senior staff sign a commitment to sustainability,” and “Facilities only has some green cleaning products and there are only a few part-time employees that work on the environment sustainability initiatives.”
USF received a low grade in the Green Building category in part because the new integrated Science Center is still in the early design phases. USF received a C in the climate change and energy category because K Hall was still being built when the survey was conducted. Additionally, USF scored low in Endowment Transparency because it does not have an established policy of disclosure, endowment holdings or its shareholder voting records. USF also has low scores in the category of the Investment Priorities and Shareholder Engagement because the university has not made any public statements regarding the information that pertains to those particular categories.
Glenn Loomis, community relations director, said that the survey has “some value, but not extraordinary value.” He pointed out that “it comes from a particular vantage point.” He also said that he felt the survey did not take certain things into account, like the future integrated science center that will be the first building to receive an LEED certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council Level of Commitment to Sustainability. Another thing Loomis felt that the survey overlooked was the garden project at USF for its category in student involvement. Also, he added that the transportation and recycling program at USF is 30 years old whereas other schools have newly implemented transportation and recycling programs. Loomis also mentioned that the survey failed to note a project that professor Todd Sayre initiated “Trust the Tap” with a group of students to persuade the student body to use reusable bottles rather than plastic bottles for water.
The efforts that USF is making to improve their environmental sustainability, according to Loomis, are an “incredible process of making better use of energy, lowering consumption of energy, and increasing green energy.” Also, in the past year the school added 600 kilowatts of photovoltaic cells (electricity made from sunlight) which is used in Gleeson Library, Koret Health Center, University Center, and Cowell Hall.
Loomis said that the faculty is helping the school become more environmentally friendly by incorporating the importance of the environment in their curriculum. Also in 2007, USF earned fifth place in a nationwide recycling competition. While the endowment and voting records of the shareholders may not reflect an eco-conscious attitude, many would argue that the efforts of USF students merit a higher grade than a C.