News, University News

BUCC discusses sustainability, library initiative

Paxson also discusses search for BAI arts director, professional development program

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Brown University Community Council discussed long term sustainability goals, the library’s five-year strategic plan and other initiatives at Wednesday’s meeting.

Assistant Provost for Sustainability Stephen Porder presented several long-term goals for sustainability during yesterday’s Brown University Community Council meeting.

The drafted sustainability plan looks to achieve a 15 percent reduction in the University’s nitrogen and phosphorous footprint by 2025 and a 25 percent reduction by 2040. Nitrogen and phosphorous are common components of nutrient pollution and pose a “major threat” to modern society, Porder said. The Wednesday announcement is the latest update in a series of University initiatives meant to reduce its environmental impact.

Porder also emphasized the importance of maintaining biodiversity. With increased rates of modern animal extinction, “we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis,” he said. The University would work for two years following the plan’s adoption to incorporate biodiversity impacts into its purchasing decisions, beginning by immediately ceasing all purchases of tropical hardwoods, the extraction of which threatens diverse ecosystems.

Under the drafted plan, the University would also incorporate a “red list” of dangerous or problematic construction materials into its purchasing policies and standards of building within three years, Porder said. During the same time period, the University would evaluate the costs and benefits of treating polluted stormwater, such as the impact on carbon emissions.

Sustainability is increasingly integral to the University’s educational function under the plan. “The educational component is critical,” Porder said, adding that sustainability education should go beyond course offerings and become a part of the “educational fabric of our university.”

Additionally, Porder reiterated the University’s previous pledges toward a 75 percent reduction in campus emissions by 2025 and net-zero emissions by 2040.

The full draft of the sustainability plan will soon be available online for comments from community members. Community feedback is an integral part of the planning process, Porder said.

During a question-and-answer portion of the presentation, Porder responded to a question about why the University’s drafted plan focuses on quantifiable changes rather than initiatives like increased community outreach and environmental justice. He stressed that he prioritizes quantifiable solutions because their progress is easier to measure.

“We can’t as easily measure our impact on environmental justice. … That doesn’t mean we don’t think it’s important,” Porder said.

Later in the Council meeting, Joukowsky Family University Librarian Joseph Meisel presented the library’s five-year strategic plan. Meisel announced goals of heightening community engagement, aligning collections to fit the University’s academic needs and increasing scholarly opportunities through programs like undergraduate fellowships. The library also plans to increase the visibility of its special collections, like those held in the John Hay Library, as well as hire a head of digital technologies to help make the library’s digital collection more navigable.

Meisel also stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the library. “Libraries have a special responsibility because we are the keepers of the systems of knowledge upon which scholarship depends,” he said, adding that those systems are often not structured or distributed in an equitable way.

During the question-and-answer portion of Meisel’s presentation, Robert Williams ’18 MD’22 asked whether the library plans to make more scholarly resources available to individuals outside of the University community. Meisel said that licensing agreements prevent the University from expanding access to all of its scholarly resources to the greater Providence community.

Also during the meeting, President Christina Paxson P’19 announced that the Office of the President, University Human Resources and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity will create a professional development program for mid- and upper-level administrators. The program stems from a recent staff climate survey, which revealed a desire among staff for further professional development services at the University, Paxson said.

A pilot program with 18 to 25 participants will launch early next year, Paxson said. “There will be a heavy focus on managing diverse and inclusive teams … and it will be very intensive,” she added.

Paxson also announced that the University is currently searching for an artistic director for the Brown Arts Initiative. The director will oversee arts programming for both the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and the Performing Arts Center once its construction is completed.

“The idea is to make Brown this very porous place for the arts,” Paxson said. With the finished PAC, “we will really have expanded the space and scope for artistic expression at Brown,” making the new position necessary, she added.

A faculty search committee and an external advisory group are currently working on a list of potential candidates, with a goal of filling the position during summer 2020.

Paxson also reported on the University’s recently announced initiative to extend need-blind admission and make standardized test score submissions optional for prospective student veterans.

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