An Undergraduate Student Government subcommittee lead by Engineering Senator Myles Gibbs is pushing to add a sustainability course to the list of general education requirements at UConn. The idea for this requirement was first proposed by ECOalition, a student group comprised of representatives from organizations like EcoHouse and UConn PIRG. Senator Gibbs is the USG representative to this group, and the legislation he and other members of the subcommittee are pushing would affirm USG’s support for this new requirement.
UConn already offers about 200 courses across various departments that could fill this sustainability gen ed requirement. Because of the diversity of courses that deal with sustainability and the environment, it is likely that the requirement would barely be an added burden on the schedule of students. Students would likely be able to satisfy an additional requirement with one of these courses, whether it be a content area or a major specific course. Fulfilling the requirement wouldn’t be difficult, and it will serve an important role for the student body.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats that the current generation of college students will have to face. Considering the collective effort that will be required to stop this threat, it is critical that people learn as much as they can about the subject. Numerous studies have shown significant sections of the American population with misconceptions about climate change, from its cause to when its effects will be felt (answers: humans and now). As students are not required to learn about climate change in K-12, a college requirement will help teach people more about the facts of this problem.
UConn has long been a leader in the sustainability movement, even ranking No. 1 on the Sierra Club’s list of environmentally-friendly colleges. UConn is dropped to No. 9 on the 2016 list, but environmental sustainability is still clearly of great importance to faculty and students alike. A sustainability gen ed is just one way that UConn can continue to lead in this endeavor. Committing to renewable energy and minimizing waste are also essential to protect our environment and ensure a healthier world going forward. However, these initiatives require leaders to be informed on this issue. It all starts with education, which is why a sustainability gen ed is so important. Hopefully, other colleges and K-12 schools will follow UConn’s example, and prioritize environmental education.