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Institute gives ND poor grade

Eva Binda | Thursday, March 1, 2007

With top athletic programs and consistent academic rankings annually in the nation’s Top 20, Notre Dame is not used to receiving failing grades.

However, when the Sustainable Endowment Institute released its annual College Sustainability Report Card covering environmental and endowment practices, Notre Dame received a D-minus – the lowest grade given in the survey. Other institutions that received low grades included the University of Chicago, which received a D-plus and University of Southern California, which received a D.

The Report Card “grades 100 colleges by looking at college greening practices and endowment policies,”according to the organization’s Web site. The grading is on an A to F scale and takes into account 26 indicators, ranging from green building initiatives to endowment investment policies. These 100 colleges represent the largest endowments of colleges across the country.

The highest grade attained in the report card was an A-minus, which Harvard University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College and Williams College all received.

Notre Dame received a failing grade in the categories of Administration, Climate Change, Green Building and Endowment Transparency. Its highest grade of a “C” was received in Investment Priorities. Notre Dame also received a “D” in the categories of Shareholder Engagement and Food & Recycling, with its recycling program being cited as a “good effort.”

“As far as can be determined, the University of Notre Dame has not made any public attempts to approach the issue of campus sustainability,” the report card said.

However, the report card did report that there is a research center for alternative energies on campus.

Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology who is involved with environmental issues on campus, believes the University is working on sustainability, but does not publicize it enough.

“We’re doing more than most campuses, but we just don’t tell anybody,” Narvaez said.

Some on campus are not surprised by Notre Dame’s low grade and believe more can be done.

Narvaez is also a former Executive Fellow in the Dean of Arts and Letters’ office.

“I anticipated it because I think Notre Dame has been dragging its feet on these issues,” said Andy Weigert, a sociology professor and Fellow at the Institute for International Peace Studies.

Weigert also believes “more could be done academically in terms of teaching.” He would like to see an environmental studies major or minor within the College of Arts and Letters.

However, Weigert said many initiatives are underway to make the campus more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Last year, Narvaez created an Arts and Letters Environmental Task Force . The task force released a call-to-action entitled “Our Environment in Crisis,” a document that discussed the University’s environmental responsibilities.

“We need to respond to the environmental crisis, especially as a Catholic university,” Narvaez said.

Another group formed to find solutions to the University’s environmental issues – the Energy and Environmental Issues Committee. According to its Web site, it was created to “broaden energy and environmental awareness, report on Notre Dame green initiatives and advise University leadership on eco-friendly opportunities.”

In addition to these initiatives, Narvaez would like to see everyone on campus, from staff to faculty to students, get into a more environmental mindset.

“I’d like everybody on campus to have a sustainability mindset in everything they’re doing,” she said. “They should think about what’s good for the environment, human health, society, the globe.”

Weigert, who has taught at Notre Dame since the late 1960’s, said it’s important that students are mobilized on the issue.

“If the students got on board, they could have great influence on this issue … I’ve seen students influence become very strong,” he said. “You need a salient issue. Maybe if students could get mobilized, that would move the administration.”