“Michael Roth, What Are You Doing About Global Warming?” Or, Politics at Wesleyan

Michael Roth, What are you doing about global warming? These were the words I saw graffitied on the sidewalk near my office this week. There were a few more global warming tags at the Usdan Center and walkways. What an important subject, but what a dumb way to articulate it! We asked physical plant workers to clear the surfaces, using even more energy resources than we already were doing. And how was I supposed to respond – with graffiti? I don’t think that would be very effective.

But it is such an important question. Michael Roth, what are you doing about global warming? I don’t think I’m doing enough. I am more conscious now of the energy I use, be it in the car, or in the office, or at home, and my family has become pretty good at recycling and composting. But we should do more, and we are working at it. But whoever scrawled the question near my office probably wanted to know what Wesleyan is doing about global warming. This is a great question, and my answer is similar. We have started to become a much greener, more sustainable campus, but we have much more to do. Recently I met with a group of students, the Environmental Organizers Network, and this group is very well informed about what steps Wesleyan can take to become a more responsible user of energy. We have appointed staff who are now responsible for ensuring that the university moves in a green direction. Our major facilities projects will all be subject to evaluation on their use of energy, and we will hold ourselves to high standards. And I will continue to meet with EON, with faculty and staff to get ideas about how we can do better as an institution to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Finally, we are developing curriculum, from the Center for the Arts to the Exley Science Center (with the Public Affairs Center as hub) to educate our community about the dynamic of climate change and how we can change it. This is not a subject for sloganeering, but it is an important topic for curriculum development and institutional change.

Last week I met with Ashley Casale ’10, who, along with Michael Israel just returned from a walk across the country for peace. I had heard about her efforts when I was in Berkeley, and I was filled with pride that a Wesleyan student was asking the country to wake up to the importance of the struggle for peace in our current political context. We had a small reception for Ashley and some of her friends in South College, and we talked about what Wesleyan is doing to call attention to the war in Iraq, and to efforts to promote peace and justice more generally. We are not doing enough, I said, but if the students have ideas as to how we can promote education about the dynamics of the current war, or about education for political engagement on issues from the war to global warming, I would do my best to support these ideas. I’ve already received some suggestions. Wesleyan should be the place where we can connect our liberal arts education to issues in public life – be they about mismanaged wars, global warming, or threats from terrorism. The connections are not simple (they can’t be reduced to graffiti), but they can be productively explored in classes, in “teach-ins,” and in a variety of co-curricular programming. We are working on it.

Let’s work together – faculty, staff, students – to use our educational resources to have a more positive impact on the culture and on the environment around us!

[tags] Chalking, environment, Environmental Organizers Network, Ashley Casale, Michael Israel [/tags]

53 thoughts on ““Michael Roth, What Are You Doing About Global Warming?” Or, Politics at Wesleyan”

  1. I’m very glad that Wesleyan is taking these issues seriously as an institution.

    Was the ‘graffiti’ written in chalk?

  2. I am assuming that the ‘graffiti’ was written in chalk, as is Wes ‘tradition’ (I try not to use the word tradition too lightly because I went to graduate school at the University of Virginia where anything done more than twice was labeled tradition and some of the so-called traditions were a lot sillier, not to mention more dangerous, and/or more offensive than chalking. But I digress). I agree that perhaps chalking is not the very best mode of bringing up this (or any other) issue. And I further assume that the chalking ban instituted by the former holder of your office is still in place (after my time). Such that you had no ‘choice’ but to have physical plant remove the chalk, using up more resources.

    However, given that you responded to this question-in-chalk, here on the blog and presumably in other forums, ‘grafitti’ appears to be a less silly mode of communication than at first glance. I just returned from a trip that included visiting Pompeii, where I avidly examined ancient Roman ‘grafitti.’ I was not and have not been the only one to do so, I might add, as it tells us a lot about Roman politics, life, etc. Simultaneously, I was heartsick when I saw the recent ‘grafitti’ in unattended (well, they were all unattended!) rooms, which said “Marcus and Abby 2006” and the like. And so it became clear to me that ‘grafitti’ can actually be a rather powerful mode of communication. I may not always appreciate the message but it evokes a response. And in my admittedly perhaps simple opinion, that’s enough for it to be important, worthy of comment.

    On a separate note, I too am very glad that Wesleyan is taking steps to be greener, towards a more sustainable campus. I’d like to think that Wesleyan could be a leader on this issue. It will more than likely require capital to change in ways that are meaningful but we can no longer dally as a society, as a community. In reading this blog, I have been impressed at how much listening you do as President, how willing you are to meet with students, such as EON. This almost never happened while I was at Wesleyan, aside from token meetings. I sincerely hope that the meetings you describe here on this blog are not merely token and that you will continue to be engaged in a meaningful way.

  3. Good evening.
    As a student I served on a sustainable buildings committee with staff and faculty. However I believe it has since been disbanded and I don’t think there was ever a true commitment to sustainability or a funded coordinating position would have been established (see comparable schools like Dartmouth, etc).

    As an alumnus I would be much more excited to support Wesleyan if Wesleyan makes a serious commitment to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions and to set stringent green building standards for all renovated or new buildings. There is no reason Wesleyan couldn’t mandate LEED Silver or Gold for all new construction and at least 20% more energy efficient than code. LEED Silver + 20% is the standard for all CT government buildings. Wesleyan certainly has the resources to be much more aggressive than that and support solar thermal and solar PV in Wesleyan owned or operated buildings, including residences. The argument against such investments (payback period) make little sense for a university that intends to exist in 10-20 years and as fossil fuel prices rise investments today can stabilize university operating costs. There are also sizable state and Federal incentives available in part through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.

    I’d encourage you, faculty, and students to hold a “Focus the Nation” event at Wesleyan- it’s basically a template for a national teach-in on global warming on January 31st.

    Reducing fossil fuel use is a moral imperative and schools like Yale are taking this seriously. I hope Wesleyan does too.

    Roger Smith Wesleyan ’01
    Campaign Director Clean Water Action
    Coordinator, Connecticut Climate Coalition
    Hartford, CT

  4. I adore that current Wesleyan students are still chalking.

    First, I should mention how terrific I think your blog is. As an alum, it helps me to feel connected to a school that I miss and left many years ago. It is a different world and a different institution in many ways, but in other ways so similar to when I was attending.

    Second, I want to say that although it may seem petty for students to chalk what they feel may be important questions, I believe it is a wonderful form of expression that was halted a few years ago, a subject for another email. BUT, most importantly, this student’s chalking led our new President to think for several hours about just how our University IS thinking about the University’s environmental impact. I appreciate both the chalking and your response.

    Please keep an open conversation going and keep reading those chalkings!! May you and the staff and students come up with some fabulous ways to improve Wesleyan’s energy consumption and find a way to positively impact the environment.


  5. As two of the EON members who met with you to discuss global climate change and environmentalism at Wesleyan, we are excited that you are taking these issues so seriously at this early stage in your presidency. While we agree that graffiti is an inappropriate way to elicit a response, we are encouraged that you think climate change is a topic worthy of discussion on your blog.

    We fully support any efforts taken by you, your staff, the faculty of Wesleyan and the community at large to begin addressing this crisis. Global climate change is a topic of grave importance and we hope that, in continuing talks with EON, students, faculty and staff, you will decide to promote measures that will make Wesleyan stand out as a leader for environmental stewardship.

    Your signing the Presidents Climate Commitment (http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org) would be a clear and commendable demonstration of the dedication that you have expressed to diminishing Wesleyan’s negative impact on the environment. By signing the Commitment and focusing Wesleyan on a path towards climate neutrality, you will do great service to this institution and our legacy. Thank you!

  6. President Roth,

    I was excited to see your comments on Climate Change and to learn that you and the administration are taking serious steps to mitigate Wesleyan’s contribution to the most pressing crisis of our time. As an institution that prides itself on social responsibility, Wesleyan’s actions on this issue speak loudly. Please know that you will have the overwhelming support of the student body if you sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. Thank you for being so receptive to our voices.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments offered by my peers with regards to Wesleyan’s ongoing move towards environmental stewardship. I know that there are so many ways that we as a community can work together towards this goal, and I greatly appreciate efforts that will help us attain it. I have been very excited by President Roth’s conspicuous and vocal presence on campus in the last few weeks, and I think that this is an area in which he can make a lot of difference for the Wesleyan community. I hope that he will work with us as a campus to live more sustainably! Thank you!

  8. Are we more concerned about appearing green or saving energy? While utilizing renewable energy sources available to us may prove helpful, it may not be an efficient way at approaching the real issue: helping to save our planet. The most cost-effective, substantial, and responsible thing we can do for the environment and for the school budget is to cut down on waste. We leave lights on over night. We leave printers, computers, speakers, and coffee machines on 24/7. To completely focus on renewable energy sources without addressing the unacceptable amount of waste by students and staff at this school would be hypocritical.

    I don’t believe a punishment system is inappropriate for reigning in our energy waste. A highly publicized incentive system that includes more than a one-house-wins-a-prize gimmick in necessary to get us all aware of the energy we waste. We need figures. We need benchmarks. We need to instill waste awareness into our psyche. We need to incorporate wise ways into the Wesleyan way of life.

    Thank you, and keep up the good work.

  9. One thing Wesleyan could do is think about going to its energy provider and asking to have its electrical power supplied from renewable sources: my partner and I signed up for that today at the local farmer’s market. There are — as we discovered — wind farms all over CT and New York, and you can choose to buy your power from that source. I costs a little more – about 4% I figure — which in terms of Wesleyan’s usage could be a bill that we don;t want to pay. Or maybe we might….

  10. Though much of this entry is heartening, I am particularly excited by the response I see to EON and (I think) the President’s Climate Commitment. (Go green, Wes!)

  11. hey prez, glad to see you’re paying attention to this issue. hope you sign the commitment and that we then follow up on the commitment.

    ps: on another topic, maybe chalking should be allowed since it washes off and especially if it’s not offensive to anyone but oil companies.

  12. I graduated from Wesleyan last year, and am glad to see that the new administration is continuing to work to support the environment. Peer schools are taking good strides to ensure that their school’s carbon footprint becomes 0, and I hope your attention to the subject is a sign that Wesleyan will soon join them.

    Like Jacob and Nate, I support your signing the President’s Climate Commitment. I think this would be an excellent sign to the student body — and alums — that Wesleyan is, indeed, serious about global warming, and willing to take actual steps to combat it.

  13. A few days ago, I was awakened at 7:30am (while I tried to sleep before my test in my 10:30 class) by a grounds employee using a leaf blower outside of my window. I was fairly annoyed by this, but I found that I was really most annoyed by the fact that, for one, they were using unnecessary energy removing leaves from a sidewalk, when there would be even more leaves even a few hours later, and when leaves on a sidewalk are really no threat, nor disfigurement that it would be inappropriate for them to stay there. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that such an unnecessary and ridiculous (and inconsiderate towards the students awakened by it) task was also relying on fossil fuels. This is an obvious abuse of fossil fuels, for absolutely no reason.

    In addition, I must ask myself why every light in the “green” new campus center is on at 4am, including in the dining hall, whose services are NOT open to students at those hours. It seems wildly unnecessary. In addition, these lights are causing light pollution, and preventing star-gazing.

    My third major concern is in regards to the climate control situation in many of the dorms. Last year, I had no control over my heater (in Nicolson), and the two settings that existed were “high” and “off,” thought these were not controlled by the students. The heating system was based arbitrarily, i suppose, on dates. In late fall, nights that were as warm as 65 degrees (perhaps the work of global warming), the heat was on. As a result of the brutal temperature, I opened a window. When this was ineffective, I turned my fan on as well. I know I was not the only person doing this. This means that, not only was the energy being used on heating was completely wasted, but there was additional energy being wasted on the fan. Had the heat been off, there would have been a significant amount of energy saved.

    Please help us make Wesleyan more green!

  14. Hey Prez Roth,
    Thank you for taking this issue so seriously, I think it would be impossible to spend to much time or energy (hopefully cabon neutral energy :-P) focusing on this issue. I strongly encourage you to sign the President’s Climate Commitment that EON has brought to your attention. Carbon neutrality and 100% renewable should be our ultimate goal, and Wes should be at the forfront of that.

  15. Why the oppositional question: “Michael Roth, What are you doing about global warming?”

    Reducing resource use is not a matter of the university president signing a document. Rather it’s a process of cooperation in establishing the steps toward the goal properly advocated by EON, committing to effect those steps and objectively measuiring progress as a community.

  16. Dear Pesident Roth,
    I’m am very excited to see you publicly addressing this issue. As you can see from earlier posts, there is a great deal of history here at Wesleyan of working to address environmental issues. Unfortunately, many efforts such as the sustainable buildings committe mentioned above, the Environmental Management Committee, and others have been lost along the way. The President’s Climate Commitment is an important way to institutionalize a continuing commitment to environmental stewardship at Wesleyan. I completely agree with your comments that the University is taking important strides towards becoming more sustainable and that more needs to be done. The climate commitment is the best way to accomplish this.
    Thank you for listening!

  17. I am also thrilled by the prospect of your accepting the Presidents Climate Commitment, President Roth. As you’ve explained in your entry, Wesleyan is already taking steps in the right (greener) direction, and our objectives seem right in line with those of the Climate Commitment. Signing the Commitment would affirm Wesleyan’s commitment to social responsibility and would open doors to resources that would help us on our way toward carbon neutrality. Thank you so much for your careful consideration of this issue that is so important to so my peers and me.

  18. Dear President Roth and contributors,

    I too attended the meeting with Ashley; I was the tall guy who walked in late. I am very excited to see Wes under new leadership that is taking the institution’s role in the environment seriously. Last year, through EON I and others worked hard to bring together a petition urging that the new science center meet LEED Gold standards and 70 percent carbon neutral as following steps outlined by The American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the United States Green Building Council, steps aiming to reach carbon neutrality in buildings by 2030. This original petition may be viewed online through the MSLB link on Blackboard. We compiled this petition rather quickly but none the less obtained 456 signatures demonstrating an immense support of a green building. If we and other institutions commit to American Institute of Architects’ plan, green house gas emissions will be reduced by 40 percent by 2050. Making one science center green is however, not sufficient. If consumption continues at the current rate, global energy usage will increase by 54 percent in the next twenty years—a burden this earth cannot bear. It is clear that global warming can no longer be ignored and that we must make changes now or face a barren and bleak future. Whether or not we like it, Wesleyan represents much more than the faculty, staff, and students. We play a role in the global world, we are visible as an elite institution and our actions do not go unnoticed. It Wesleyan’s duty, indeed the institution is charged with the duty to act as conscious citizens and to lead by example.

    Above someone mentioned leaf blowers. I wish not to comment on the use of lawn equipment at certain times and the validity of using them certain places, but rather on the leaf blowers themselves. The person’s valid point was that they are unregulated gas engines. Running a lawn mower for thirty minutes has the same effect environmentally as driving a car two hundred miles. My intent here is not a tangentially motivate rant, but rather to use our choice of lawn companies to demonstrate that our institution needs to become a conscious consumer and citizen. We should support a lawn company that has sustainable practices, such as electric blowers and lawn mowers. We should be making an example for the world to follow and we certainly cannot claim to be caring if our practices inherently rebuke our sentiments.

    This year more than ever, I believe Wesleyan has begun to take steps in the right direction. However, compared to other institutions I fear we have yet to make much progress in our march forward. I ardently agree with the above desires that you, President Roth, sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. More than 150 signatures have already been garnered and I hope Wesleyan will be the next institution to join the worthy cause. Joining is would be leading by example and participating in a community of conscious citizens.

    Finally, I would like to applaud you, President Roth, for your presence on campus. It is in this first year that you can make the most changes, that the environment is most malleable to molding. I agree with you that there should be a greater forum for communication that does not involve substances that dissolve with the first drop of water. It is fantastic and exciting to have a President walking the campus and inviting student groups and leaders in to talk. I strongly urge you to continue your positive presence on campus to ensure that we students do have a person to talk to, to create communication between yourselves and us.

    Thank you for creating a dialogue and taking an interest in the environment.


    Brendan McEntee 2010

  19. I’m really glad you made this post–attending an environmentally conscious school is important to me, and I hope you will be the one to push us further in that direction. The President’s Climate Commitment is a great opportunity and we would really benefit on many levels by signing it.

  20. What an important subject, but what a dumb way to articulate it! We asked physical plant workers to clear the surfaces, using even more energy resources than we already were doing. And how was I supposed to respond – with graffiti? I don’t think that would be very effective.

    It seems important, if a bit obvious, to point out that chalking does not waste energy resources, maintaining President Bennet’s policy of erasing any and all chalking does. I’m sure you’re familiar with the history of chalking at Wesleyan (if not, http://www.wesleyan.edu/hermes/chalking/ offers a great overview of chalking and why it was/is considered important to the activist community here), and simply brushing aside this mode of communication as “graffiti” and denigrating its practitioners is an insult both to the Wesleyan activist community and to the global tradition of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action.

    (By the way, it’s worth noting that the definition of “graffiti” requires that it involve “damage or destruction to property” — and also that it be painted.)

    Lilly Dagdigian ’08
    Per Stinchcombe ’08

  21. President Roth,

    As a Wesleyan student studying abroad, it’s heartening and encouraging to see that you are addressing such issues with openness and sincerity. Please sign the President’s Climate Committment; there is a great deal of support and excitement from students on and off campus. I look forward to coming back to a Wesleyan administration that values discourse between the staff and student body – thank you for creating a forum like this where your views and responses to student questions are so accessible.

    Corinne Baldwin ’09

  22. President Roth,

    I appreciate your comments on these serious issues, and I hope to see some progress before I graduate. Some things I’d like to see Wesleyan do:

    -REDUCE WASTE. Obviously this is a very difficult thing to do, but I’m certain many things could be done differently to reduce waste on campus. One commenter above related that there are lights on–many lights on–at odd hours of the morning when people do not need them at all. This can be rectified quite simply… by turning off these lights. Heating/cooling systems in the dorms were also mentioned above; I strongly recommend some method of student control on these systems… when I lived in Butterfield B last year, my method of keeping the temperature DOWN in the WINTER was to OPEN THE WINDOW. I had no other choice but to swelter. THIS IS WASTEFUL AND UNNECESSARY. It is things like this that suggest to me that Wesleyan in more bark than bite in terms of waste reduction.

    -ENCOURAGE LOCAL/ORGANIC FOOD SOURCES. Wesleyan is pretty good in this respect, but one special dinner a year made from local food sources is not enough. As much as it may sting, people need to start biting the bullet around here; food from far away, even when it’s cheap, is extremely wasteful in terms of oil used in transportation. Bananas and other tropical fruits shouldn’t be sold on campus. If we sell oranges, we should get them from the closest place possible. Organic farms are also far less wasteful, as they don’t use oil-derived pesticides and the like. Fuel economy has a LOT to do with food economy, and this should be explored.

    -INCORPORATE MIDDLETOWN INTO THE PLAN!!!!! We should be making MIDDLETOWN greener, not just Wesleyan. For example, I recently learned in the energy student forum that we can harvest enough natural gas from a local landfill to power a large public building FOR FREE for the next FIFTEEN to TWENTY YEARS. Why not put Wesleyan behind this program?


    All of these things would help. We could do so much to help, and it’s a shame that this is such a TALKED ABOUT but DO-NOTHING ABOUT issue. Help us, Michael Roth. Help Nature, and Stick it to the Man!!!!!!!

  23. Dear Prez Roth,

    I am happy to hear you are considering signing the President’s climate commitment, and urge you to do so. I am currently taking a student forum focusing on energy consumption and alternative energies, and while I am learning plenty, I am frustrated by the limited means of action that I can take. Therefore, as president, i hope you realize you represent a body of amazing, motivated, liberal students who want to make change on this issue. Show us you are the right president and sign the commitment.

    On a personal level, wesleyan has made me realize all the materials we each consume as individuals, and i am doing my part by trying to shower with less frequency. A smelly student body is a caring student body!

  24. I think that this issue needs to be one of our highest priorities for the future.
    Signing the president’s commitment would be the perfect way to begin.

  25. President Roth,
    Thank you for taking the time to reflect on Wesleyan’s impact on the environment. Climate change is a very pressing issue, and many in the Wesleyan student body are interested in seeing how you will address this matter. To reiterate on a previous comment, many think that your signing of the Presidents Climate Commitment (http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org) would be an effective means of demonstrating that you are actively working toward making Wesleyan an institution with climate neutrality. Please continue working with student organizations to generate ideas and enact new policies that will clearly demonstrate your desire to reduce our adverse impact on the environment.

  26. President Roth,
    I, too, appreciate your thoughtful response to a rather unthoughtful “prompt” on climate change. I would consider climate change the single most important issue of our times, with implications for everything from security to food distribution to water sources to ecosystem functioning. Thank you for opening dialogues for exploring how Wesleyan can make a difference. I look forward to hearing your response to EON’s President’s Climate Commitment proposal; signing this pledge and working towards its goals immediately would be a great step in the right direction.

  27. President Roth –

    Please do sign the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. We need to work on these issues as a community so your simple signature will not do it all, but it will help set the right tone on campus. Thank you for taking the climate crisis so seriously. I hope that you continue to work with student organizations to reduce our footprint.

  28. Dear President Roth,
    I am please to read that you are taking environmental issues at Wesleyan seriously; however, I would also like to see your attitude evidenced by some serious changes around here. I know that these changes take a lot of time and planning, not to mention money. And I know that the university does not like to spend a lot of money. However, I honestly can’t think of many uses that are more important than creating an office of sustainablility. Evironmentally friendly practices ought to be taken into consideration in all areas of the Wesleyan community, and we need people employed to do that and only that (read: the job is too big for Bill Nelligan alone).
    Please sign the President’s Climate Commitment.
    Please stop erasing chalk (but don’t stop responding to it!)
    Please stop blowing leaves. Also, I was appalled to see that pesticides had been applied to the lawns.
    Please talk to BA about their lack of organic food in the dining halls (also they are not partnering with local farms as much as I would like to see, but rather are importing mangoes and other exotic fruits).
    The student body cares about these issues, and many students are working very hard to deal with them. Your role as president makes the choices you make very important. Please make green choices, and make them soon, because we don’t have much time left.
    Thanks for listening.

  29. Dear President Roth,

    I join those urging you to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. This is a first step that will remind us continually not to let ourselves off the hook. Then we need to get to work. It is time to stop acting embarassed at our lazy failures at recycling and such (though these need to be addressed) and start focusing on the very real threat to all of nature, including ourselves, posed by our dissipation of Earth’s resources.

    As an educational institution, we are obligated to teach — in theory and in practice. Our practices must be made to conform to the ideal of sustainability. Additionally, we must find a way to let sustainability inform and invigorate our curriculum. I know this will be difficult: the expertise of most Wesleyan faculty members lies elsewhere. But a portion of our efforts needs to be focused on this, society’s big topic, and we have to find a way. Not being involved would be educational malpractice; not being a leader would be un-Wesleyan. When I look at the Presidents Climate Commitment website, I see featured the efforts of Carleton, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Oberlin, Middlebury, Dartmouth…. We compete with schools such as these in frivolous dimensions; why not in something serious as well?

  30. Please be vocal about the importance of building a green life sciences building. To not do so would provide the saddest irony of all. The phrase “too expensive” is always short-sighted when it comes to energy conservation, and should never stand in the way of investing in our commitments to the things we find important.

  31. President Roth,

    Thank you for creating this online forum for students, alumni, faculty, and anyone in the Wesleyan community to voice their opinions about the incredibly pressing issues of climate change and sustainability. It is efforts like these that encourage more participation in, and dedication to, changing our (the university’s and individuals’) actions to save energy, reduce waste, and move toward a greener campus. Wesleyan has always been a school that prides itself on the lively intellectual atmosphere in which community members work with each other to generate creative, progressive solutions to current problems, both local and global. Your signature on the President’s Climate Commitment would be a clear statement that we as a campus are devoted to acting responsibly and ethically. You have much support behind you for this commitment, and your endorsement of it will breed more positive, inspired action. Thank you so much for all of your efforts, I look forward to working with you in the future!

    -Rebecca Rabison ’08

  32. As a young person it is easy to despair about the prospects of global climate change. The science is simple, if we continue to release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at our current rate than our planet will become increasingly hostile. These changes will be irreversible and the consequences will be global. Scientists seem to agree that now is the time is time to act as latter may well already be too late. Ultimately doing nothing, allowing “progress” to march on untamed, will be opting to partake in an uncontrolled experiment with the highest stakes… the ability to live on our planet.

    I believe that my generation will be judged by how we respond or fail to respond to this challenge. I appreciate your interest in this topic and I sincerely hope that you’re words will translate into actions. I hope that we can do more than the bare bones minimum of making environmental studies classes more accessible, and reducing waste.

    What if we engaged in an ongoing campus wide discussion about global climate change? What if we decided to squarely face today’s most pressing problems? What if Wesleyan moved decisively into future, asking tough questions and inspiring administrators, faculty and students, to dig deeply for their answers?

    Maybe we ought to ask ourselves “if we don’t do this who will? And if no one does this, what will the consequences be?”

  33. Dear President Roth,
    I would like to echo my fellow classmates sentiments and thank you for confronting this issue in an open and serious manner. I strongly encourage you to sign the President’s Climate Commitment, both as a symbol to our peers nationwide as well as to the Wesleyan Community that environmental sustainability is an issue that we will take seriously in the future. I want to thank you and EON for bringing this issue to the attention of the entire Wesleyan community and I hope that there will continue to be transparency with future issues and decisions. I look forward to working with you and others on fulfilling this goal.

  34. Dear President Roth,

    I fully support Wesleyan’s efforts to confront global warming on campus and I encourage you to sign the President’s Climate Commitment. Tackling this pressing problem requires broad institutional support as well as individual commitment, and taking this significant step will set a standard for Wesleyan students to follow on campus and off. I am very impressed with the commitment you have made thus far to working with students and making it clear that our questions and concerns are not only heard, but carefully considered. I also want to thank EON for their incredible efforts to make Wesleyan an environmentally sustainable community.

  35. Dear President Roth,
    Welcome back to Wes. We are honored to have you here. I sincerely hope that you help support sustainability on this campus. I know that you have been bombarded with information and requests, so I will keep it short. I ask you, we the students ask you, to please do all in your power to make this campus more environmentally sound and to help promote Wesleyan as a community that values sustainability. The times are a changin’ and we need you on board! Thank you for your support.

  36. I really appreciate that you took the time to read the chalk message and respond to it based on what it said rather than just how it was said. We are really excited to have a president who is supportive of these very important issues!

  37. Hello President Roth,

    It’s interesting to me that you invoked the image of graffiti to discredit a student who chose to challenge and question the way that you use your power. What’s at stake when a white middle class man in a position of real and public authority calls graffiti, an urban art widely associated with hip-hop culture and thus with blackness, a “dumb” way to express something? Moreover, why invoke graffiti in the first place? Chalking, if only for its transient nature, is clearly NOT graffiti. Could it be that you intended to provoke white fears about graffiti–that graffiti is a sign of social disorder and chaos, of lawlessness and decay? Perhaps, perhaps not. But you did seem a very small step away from asking that students only participate in “civilized” forms of discourse.

  38. Thank you, President Roth, for responding to this issue. As a first year student at Wes, it is so exciting to see how receptive the administration is here. I very much hope that you will sign the Presidents Climate Commitment and continue to support making Wesleyan a more environmentally friendly campus.

  39. Hello President Roth,
    I am excited that Wesleyan’s future lies in the hands of a president who has expressed interest in moving the campus in the direction becoming greener and more sustainable. I wanted to reiterate the sentiments of my fellow my classmates by encouraging you to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. I hope that with your help we can continue in this direction and take the necessary steps to build an environmentally sustainable community.

  40. I will comment again, after reading about EON’s efforts to have you, President Roth, sign the
    American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment
    . As an alum, I would like to add my voice to those asking you to sign the Committment and implement the plan that the Commitment lays out. I reiterate, Wesleyan should be a leader and it is already falling behind. Any commitment requires work and money, but I believe Wesleyan can live up to our highest expectations. I hope other alums reading these comments (and I know you are out there!) will read the Commitment and subsequently encourage the President to sign. I will also formally submit my advocacy.

    I have to admit that I’m a little shocked that Wesleyan is not already at or at least making progress toward LEED for new buildings or that its energy sources are not at least in part renewable (aside: 10+ and I still love Clair Potter!). The interests of time (for example, in building the new science center) should not outweigh the issues of approaching carbon neutrality, minimizing impacts on the environment, and supporting sustainable practices. I live in the Twin Cities and I have seen how the city of Minneapolis has successfully pushed the MN Department of Transportation to include provisions for light rail/mass transit in the new bridge on I-35W, even though time is clearly of the essence and MN-DOT originally did not plan on it and was in fact very reluctant to do so. I should be greatly disappointed if Wesleyan did not take immediate steps to be more green.

  41. President Roth:

    It is distressing to me that Wesleyan is behind so many like-minded (and even not like-minded!) institutions in terms of ecological sustainability. Really, if Wesleyan cannot become an ecologically sustainable campus, what community can?
    I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that becoming ecologically sustainable is a – if not the – top priority for Wesleyan students who want to make a lasting difference in this community. The President’s Climate Commitment is a guideline for some baby steps towards becoming sustainable. I don’t want you to sign it if you plan to do it only because it serves the purpose of making Wesleyan ‘look good,’ or of appeasing students or groups on campus. What I would like is for you to take this opportunity to evaluate Wesleyan’s sustainability and realize that this is something we all care about, because we are all part of this community (on the campus, local, national, and global level). If you would like to lead our institution into becoming a better place – which I think we all hope is your aim – then signing and fully dedicating yourself to the President’s Climate Commitment is imperative.

  42. President Roth,
    Thank you for addressing this issue. Wesleyan needs to invest in renewable energy now. Purchasing credits from the grid certainly supports the movement, but Wesleyan needs to support itself. On-site sources of green energy, especially solar, are the most efficient and sustainable option.
    Please show your support for the environment by signing the President’s Climate Commitment.

    Caitlin Quigley ’08

  43. President Roth,

    Climate change is a huge issue to Wesleyan. With no polar ice caps, sea levels would be higher than Exley Science center. Signing onto the President’s Climate Commitment is imperative for the student body.

    Joshua Cummings, ’10

  44. President Roth,

    As a Wes alum, I’m sure you know how hard it is to make Wesleyan students do anything they don’t already want to do–and yet so many students took the time to comment in a personal and heartfelt way on your post. Sustainability is obviously an important issue to the students on campus and we’re excited to see how important it is to you. Like my classmates, I urge you to sign the President’s Climate Commitment as a reflection of the Wesleyan’s devotion to being an environmentally sustainable university. Thanks for listening!

  45. As a transfer student, new to Wesleyan, I know the image that Wesleyan projects to its peer institutions. When people think about our school they think progressive and responsible, concerned and globally conscientious. We are their model for what an institution of higher learning should value and what policies it should put into practice because of those values. I know that Wesleyan as a community supports sustainable living and a world where our fate isn’t measured in kilowatt-hours, but what are these incredible convictions if they aren’t used to guide our University policies? Wesleyan represents a beautiful ideal and signing this challenge is the first step to following through on what we promise.
    As a response we, as students, can make our own pledge for conservation and push the University to make the changes that are still necessary. Whether it be chalking or simply turning off the lights, all of us can help Wesleyan become an even greater community than it already is and show others how it should be done.

  46. President Roth,

    Like many other students responding to you here, I also want Wesleyan to be a more sustainable place of living and learning and being. A lot of this should happen on the part of student organization and awareness, activism within ourselves, in educating ourselves. However, because of the structure of this University, a lot of change has to happen within our beaurocracry, if we really want to stop making such a negative impact on world communities in the near future. I believe that the President’s Climate Commitment espouses good and attainable goals for Wesleyan to reach. Please consider signing this commitment to making Wesleyan a more sustainable and wonderful place.

    Thank you for considering my words.

  47. It’s great to know that you’re thinking green, and that Wesleyan is working towards becoming even more environmentally friendly. Signing the President’s Climate Commitment is an important step towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and making Wesleyan more sustainable. Please sign the commitment, for the sake of all of us and our planet! If we really want to reduce the amount of climate change that we suffer, we have to act now, and the Climate Commitment is a great way to get Wes started on changing the world, for the better.

    Thank you for considering the issue!

  48. President Roth,

    When I came to Wesleyan, I scoffed at environmentalism – and shortly after I left, I started working for the Sierra Club. My classes, peers, and professors all helped me to realize the inextricable link between social justice (my primary concern at the time), environmental justice, and sustainability. I now work to stop global warming as full-time job, and am glad to see that you, too, are concerned about this issue. I am surprised, however, to learn that Wesleyan has not yet signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment! This seems like a very important, very basic step that would not only increase the immediate sustainability of the campus, but also would provide rich educational opportunities (an E&ES class that conducts a greenhouse gas inventory?) and maintain Wesleyan’s role as a model of progressiveness. Institutions like Wesleyan have the power to push our entire country in the right direction on energy use and global warming, and signing the ACUPCC would do just that.

    Thank you – and welcome back to Wesleyan!

  49. Dear Michael Roth,

    It’s wonderful to see you seriously tackling questions of environmental sustainability and taking your responsibility as a leader seriously. I sincerely hope such questioning will result in real action that Wesleyan can be proud of and that can encourage other institutions to take their own steps. I recognize that, while it is easy for me to push for, say, environmental sustainability, on the administrative end when it comes to actually getting such things accomplished there is a lot to take into account and it is not a simple question to face. I commend you for the fearlessness you’ve demonstrated thus far and support you in future action.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you this in person but I keep forgetting. I read somewhere that you signed a document with presidents of other colleges that stated an intention of deemphasizing U.S. News & World Report ratings, or something along those lines. THANK YOU!! This means a lot to me.

    Assuming that the graffiti you mentioned was a chalked note, I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy that experience aesthetically. I hope you might someday warm up to the unique beauty of this bubbly, raw, sly, creative, absurd, sharp, questioning, whimsical, critical, bold, innocent and heartfelt mode of communication that to me embodies so many of the qualities I love about Wesleyan. However, I understand the perspective of those to whom our wonderings and wanderings and logistical memos and drawings and questions feels “unclean.” There will be time for discussions of access and other concerns… but for now, I am sorry about any clash of aesthetics that you are feeling. When I celebrate chalking, I am genuinely sorry that it is ugly to some people. It is never my intention to deface, and I regret that my art is apparently an eyesore to some.

    I truly enjoy seeing the richness and vitality of the discussions that happen all over campus (I love Wesleyan!) reach even into the physical space where we live. It’s the ground we walk on. That said, the discussions that happen on campus are not always enlightened. This is a simple fact. In speech, action, print, and online, people express themselves crudely, rudely, and without rigor. Chalk, like other forms of communication, is vulnerable to being used imperfectly. This is one of the prices we pay for open dialogue. I agree with Jeff Compton P’11 that the question you read was phrased in an obnoxiously oppositional manner, and I am sorry that you had to deal with this instance of an important message presented in a “dumb way.” I am also sorry that you have to deal with, as I’m sure you do, messages articulated in dumb ways via email, telephone and in person.

    It’s beautiful to see the evolution of communication here. From the sidewalk to the blogosphere, let’s keep these discussions alive and celebrate the fact that we don’t always agree, and that our disagreements do not hinder our communication.

    Noa Wotton ’10

  50. I hope that all the people suggesting more expensive buildings, more expensive power and more expensive food in the cafeteria are digging deep into their pockets and writing big checks to Wes. Wesleyan continues to be very poor compared to its peers. An effect of raising costs is likely to be rising tuition which is then going to make it harder for students from low income backgrounds to attend. The other alternative to raising tuition, if costs are increased, is to cut back in other areas, such as paying professors less and then see them leave to go to other, wealthier institutions. I think local, organic food is great. I like clean air, etc, etc. But none of us, including Wesleyan, lives in a cost-free world. In sum, let’s help Wes do all of these great things by increasing our financial contributions.

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