Students petition for environmental general education requirement

UConn CFO Scott Jordan address the University Senate on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016 in the Rome Ballroom. Students home to introduce a petition about environmental education at the next senate meeting on Dec. 5, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Students from a variety of environment and sustainability groups are petitioning for a new environmental sustainability and literacy general education requirement for undergraduate students.

The petition formed in April through ECOalition, a council of representatives from many different environment-minded clubs on campus who seek to push for sustainability initiatives, Benjamin Breslau, a fifth-semester ecology and evolutionary biology student who helped write the petition said.

“After talking with various students, clubs and faculty we were informed that UConn will be restructuring its gen-ed system in the next couple years,” Breslau said. “Since faculty were planning on motioning for the university to make one of the gen-eds focus environmental sustainability and literacy, we thought it would be important to get students to support the initiative as well.”

The petition has about 500 signatures currently with hopes to have many more before the University Senate discusses the general education requirements on Dec. 5.

“The relationship between human society and the environment has become one of the defining issues of our generation,” the petition reads. “Millions of people have become ill, impoverished and/or displaced as a result of worldwide environmental degradation… We believe it imperative that every UConn student learn about how they impact the global environment. Understanding the ethical and cultural dimensions of our relationship with the environment, as well as the challenges of protecting it, requires insights from multiple perspectives and disciplines, including the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences.”

The petition and the general education requirement is a timely issue, said Breslau. Between the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, the election of Myron Ebell as the next leader of the Environmental Protection Agency and the historic Paris Agreement that was signed last December, it is imperative to inform the current and following generations the importance of sustainability awareness.

Nicholas Russo, another fifth-semester EEB student is also involved with the creation and execution of the petition.

“The election of Donald Trump is very alarming to our point of view,” Russo said. “UConn is a type of campus where people trust science and trust the information science presents us. This requirement is timely and important for us because our university could serve as a role model for other universities to inform their students about climate.”

Russo, who first got involved with the petition because he is the president of the birding club, is working with Dave Wagner, an EEB professor, to draft a letter asking other on-campus organizations to sign and share the petition.


Claire Galvin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.