Environmental leaders call on presidential search committee to choose sustainability-focused president

In a letter to the committee, the presidents of EcoHusky, ECOalition and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Governing Board asked the committee to ensure all presidential candidates demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability. (Matt Zarrella/The Daily Campus)

Leaders of multiple University of Connecticut environmental organizations have asked the presidential search committee to take UConn presidential candidates’ views on climate change and sustainability into account.

In a letter to the committee, the presidents of EcoHusky, ECOalition and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Governing Board asked the committee to ensure all presidential candidates demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability.

USG Vice President Wawa Gatheru wrote the letter, and she said that she received feedback and edits on it from other environmental student leaders on campus.

Gatheru and the other leaders sent the letter because they wanted to ensure that UConn’s future leadership continues to prioritize sustainability, she said.

“We urge the Advisory Search Committee for President to make a candidate’s demonstrated leadership on sustainability issues in their previous positions an absolute prerequisite in order to be considered for the position of President of the University of Connecticut,” the letter reads. “It is our belief that true commitment to sustainability extends beyond compliance with the law and efficiencies that result in cost savings. It instead expands to a framework that truly creates a culture in which we are compassionate stewards for our peers, our environment and our future.”

“In reflecting upon UConn’s leadership in climate action, we saw that there is a strong connection between support shown by President Herbst and UConn’s recognition as a green campus,” Gatheru said. “As students who have only known UConn as a premier environmental trailblazer, it is hard to imagine a time where UConn was not consistently ranked nationally and internationally as a to 10 green school.”

This past year, UConn hosted a Metanoia on the Environment and was ranked No. 3 in the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools list, Gatheru said. The school also joined the University Climate Change Coalition and was a signatory to the “We Are Still In” coalition of business CEOs, mayors, governors and university presidents pledging to uphold the commitments of the Paris Climate Accords, according to the letter.

Gatheru said UConn’s choice of a president who prioritizes sustainability is especially important in light of the recent report stating that humanity only has around 12 years to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to avoid “catastrophic climate change.”

“A couple days ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a troubling report detailing the imminent impacts of climate change and the swift steps we need to take to curb the increasingly warming globe,” the letter read. “This report makes it painfully clear that climate action is not just a recommendation, but a necessity. And academic institutions- as centers of learning and innovation for the next generation of leaders- must help lead the charge.”

The letter was sent to the search committee on Monday morning. USG has not yet received a response but the search is still in its early stages, Gatheru said.


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.