Environmental advocates continue to strive for gen ed requirement

(File photo/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) and EcoHouse collected signatures Wednesday for a petition to create an environmental sustainability and literacy general education requirement, an initiative they began in 2016.

OEP interns and EcoHouse volunteers will be at the table in the Student Union again Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, Benjamin Breslau, an eighth-semester ecology and evolutionary biology major, said.

The groups are advocating for the requirement to bridge the gap between majors that typically involve studying the environment and those that do not, Hannah Casey, an eighth-semester environmental studies major, said.

“For example… business students don’t (always) see the need to embrace the importance of the environment and environmental students don’t (always) see the economic side,” Casey said.

The requirement would not negatively impact students because it takes courses that already exist and make them a general education requirement that could also double dip in content areas, Casey said.

“We want to stress that we’re not adding to your course load, it’s just providing you with more options,” Casey said.

Last year, the groups advocating for the requirement collected 1,200 signatures for the petition, and last week about 500 more students signed, Breslau said.

“We’ve had students of just about every department on campus sign this petition,” Breslau said.

“It's showing that a lot of students from a lot of different backgrounds support this and this isn’t just a faculty effort.”

Environmental science exists, but there’s not a lot of formal education on it, Alexander Pawlak, a 10th-semester psychology and accounting major, said.

“It’s easy for people to wave it off as being some conspiracy,” Pawlak said.

Pawlak said he saw the petition earlier in the day in the UConnPIRG office but was too busy to sign it at the time, so when he walked by later he didn’t hesitate.

“It’s as simple as putting my name down on a petition,” Pawlak said. “I’ve done much more pain-in-the ass things.”

The initiative began in 2016 and was presented to the UConn senate in 2017. The proposal was then referred to the General Education Oversight Committee to create a plan for implementation, Breslau said. The committee created options that the senate will now vote on in February.

In the last year, there have been countless major natural disasters and major governmental policy changes, Breslau said.

“In that time several thousand UConn students have graduated potentially without understanding how this affects the world as a whole,” Breslau said.

What happens to the environment affects everyone from all majors, Casey said.

“It’s all intertwined and it affects everyone,” Casey said. “It’s important to have everyone have a background in (environmental sustainability) knowledge.”


Nicholas Hampton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.hampton@uconn.edu.