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January 24, 2013

Change ahead for sustainability subcommittee

The University Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee’s sustainability subcommittee (SusC) could be replaced by a new sustainability committee in the coming academic year.

Senate President Thomas Smitherman floated several options for SusC’s future at Faculty Assembly’s Jan. 23 meeting.

Noting that PUP and SusC share administrative liaisons, he said, “These administrators have found that the requisite work to support both committees is now, in large part because of substantial redundancies, too time-consuming and difficult to continue.”

The chancellor’s liaison to PUP and SusC is David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management.

“He and his staff and others who are involved found they were giving reports to both on essentially the same topics,” Smitherman told the University Times. DeJong also is the chancellor’s liaison to the Senate’s athletics and budget policies committees.

“The current form and format of the subcommittee does not … entirely conform to our bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order,” Smitherman added. SusC was established in 2007 following the disbandment of the Senate’s ad hoc recycling committee. (See March 8, 2007, University Times.)

“There is consensus that [SusC’s] work has been vibrant and productive,” Smitherman said, offering three options for its future:

• Changing SusC’s form and format (which would require special action from Faculty Assembly and Senate Council) and a request that the administration appoint a separate liaison.

• Replacing the subcommittee with a new committee that would be separate from PUP.

• Replacing SusC with a new University working group on sustainability that would be independent of the University Senate.

Smitherman said he had discussed the options with the Senate’s executive committee and with individuals who have been “highly active” in SusC and PUP. He said the feedback he had received was “nearly unanimous” in favor of forming an independent sustainability committee.

In terms of keeping it within the University Senate, “It began as a Senate operation. I think most people would favor keeping it within the Senate,” he said.

A proposal to form a new Senate committee would require approval of Faculty Assembly and Senate Council as well as the backing of the University administration. “My goal would be to have it in place, if we’re going to go in that direction, by the next academic year,” Smitherman said.

Citing SusC chair Buck Favorini’s intention to retire and to resign from SusC, “It’s a good time to get things refashioned, reformatted, re-engineered,” Smitherman said.

“I hope to have a final and formal proposal ready for our February meeting,” he said.

Under Senate bylaws, if approved by Faculty Assembly (which meets Feb. 19), the proposal would move to Senate Council for action. The proposal could then be presented to Senate Council Feb. 27, “but that’s tough because the meetings are only a week apart,” Smitherman said.

PUP co-chairs Susanna Leers and Patricia Weiss issued the following statement: “The University has made much progress over the past few years in consolidating existing green initiatives and embarking on new ones. The sustainability subcommittee has been part of that progress. With green building and management approaches now in place as the University’s standard for good business practice, the nature of Senate groups addressing sustainability will evolve as well.”

Favorini did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


In other business:

• Senate community relations committee co-chair Martha Ann Terry reported that CRC met nine times in the last calendar year to hear updates from the University and its community partners.

• Smitherman said the Senate’s elections committee is poised to begin its work to find candidates for committee positions, Faculty Assembly and Senate officers.

• Smitherman reported that the Senate budget policies committee continues to monitor the review of the suspended graduate programs in German, classics and religious studies.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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