A subcommittee in the Undergraduate Student Government is pushing to add a sustainability course to the list of general education requirements at the University of Connecticut.
The proposed sustainability requirement, first introduced by ECOalition, is currently under review by the University Senate’s General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC).
ECOalition is a student group consisting of representatives from EcoHouse, UConn PIRG and the Birding Club, among many other groups, that focuses on sustainability and environmental issues on UConn’s campus.
ECOalition has a petition currently with 1,100 student signatures supporting a sustainability gen ed.
Myles Gibbs, senator heading the sustainability subcommittee and USG representative to ECOalition, said the group is hoping to have 2,000 signatures overall.
Gibbs will be introducing legislation to USG Senate soon that, if passed, would confirm USG’s support for a sustainability requirement.
“In America, there’s an entire political party that seems to deny climate change, simply because we don’t learn about it in schools. We’re not required to,” Gibbs said, on the importance of the university establishing a sustainability gen ed requirement.
Gibbs said UConn should be a leader in the sustainability movement, citing the Sierra Club’s list of environmentally-friendly colleges in 2013, where UConn placed number one. The university is number nine on the Sierra Club’s 2016 list.
“It goes to show it’s something we’re proud of,” Gibbs said. “It’s part of our campus identity… but we are falling behind compared to where we were.”
The university already offers about 200 courses that potentially fill a sustainability gen ed requirement. Across 40 departments, courses are being considered from political science, engineering, psychology and human rights, among several others.
Personally, Gibbs is invested in having the university commit to a sustainability requirement because he loves the outdoors.
“I am very strongly connected to the outdoors,” Gibbs said. “My two passions are skiing and sailing… I share that strong connection to the environment with a lot of other people.”
Gibbs, a mechanical engineering major, also said he wants to work in renewable energy after he graduates.
“The way I’ve chosen to go is to try to preserve our environment and… help towards creating sustainable energy systems so we can preserve it for the next generation,” Gibbs said.
While the sustainability requirement is being reviewed by GEOC, Gibbs said his committee and the ECOalition plans to continue to promote it around campus.
“We’re going to continue to gather student support, gathering petition [signatures], putting pressure on the administration anyway that we can,” Gibbs said.
Schae Beaudoin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.