UConn’s two-faced approach to sustainability is concerning 


Students from the University of Connecticut demonstrated its storied UConn Impact this summer when fellows of the Sustainable Community Food Systems program came to North Hartford to engage fifth graders in creative activities concerning farming and food production, according to UConn Today

The SCFS program, affectionately called “skiffs,” describes itself on its website as a “unique opportunity to connect theory and practice through classroom-based work with service learning and hands-on experiences in the local community.” It stands apart from other UConn programs as a fundamentally experiential, action-based minor — and one with a distinct focus on social justice in food systems. Included in its curriculum are courses covering the sociology of food, sustainability in urban environments and other topics placing a spotlight on the societal importance of food production and insecurity. The program’s emphasis on off-site experience also enables students to participate in education and social justice projects that comport with the centerpiece of food systems.  

The Daily Campus Editorial Board views SCFS as a model of what UConn’s impact on surrounding communities can and should be: sharing the often exclusive resources afforded by universities with regions and groups who otherwise couldn’t access them. In other words, SCFS shows the benefits of tearing down the ivory tower and including society as a whole in the process of advancing knowledge and technologies. However, neither social justice and sustainability-oriented programs such as SCFS nor the $6.9 billion in statewide revenue that the university generates absolves UConn of its troubling lack of concrete steps in advancing sustainability and achieving President Radenka Maric’s stated goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 and eliminating carbon emissions altogether the decade following.  

Offering social justice in discrete packages such as student projects is not an alternative to the systemic changes UConn is capable of but failing to produce. Although Maric named addressing the climate crisis as one of UConn’s top priorities in a welcome message to the university community on Monday, the board of trustees has yet to dedicate the urgent and much-needed resources required to plan and implement a carbon reduction program. And while the Editorial Board is under no illusions that overhauling the energy infrastructure of a university spanning multiple campuses across the state can be designed in one day, the sustainability action plan that Maric promised to the community by spring of 2023 has not surfaced months later. It is also necessary to stop excusing university, state and national leaders for their reticence — and in many cases, abject unwillingness — to mitigate climate catastrophes that environmental experts have claimed for years is now inevitable.  

In spite of being spoon-fed a path toward decarbonization by student activists, there is no indication that the university will take climate change as seriously as its rhetoric implies. With the definitive threat to the planet already at our doorstep and the overwhelming scientific consensus affirming that fossil fuels are the problem, the UConn administration and board of trustees owe more to their community — and to the world — than local acts of service that operate more as public relations than substantive action. 


  1. Well everyone has the ability to reduce it. Just stop going to campus and take the classes online. Why bother maintaining buildings and fields if it comes at such a high cost. It is not as if everyone went back to the office anyway. We can recycle everything and compost everything but the fact of the matter remains is that lighting, heat, security, roads, water, sewer, electrical costs all add up. It just makes more sense to just do it online. Yes it would lead to some layoffs but what student really gets things out of sports and facilities they never really use anyway?

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