Friday, October 28, 2011

Climate Change Statement of Action

In March 2008, the presidents of all British Columbia's universities and colleges signed a letter of intention grandly entitled the "BC University and College Presidents' Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada" (link here). Among other things, the statement of action committed the University of Victoria to "set targets and develop an institutional climate action plan that engages each institution's research, education and operations into a comprehensive strategy that catalyzes solutions for climate change." UVic committed to doing this within two years of President Turpin's signing this document, which means it should have been completed by March 2010: this still has not yet been done, as of October 2011.

Predictably enough given this inaction in the areas of teaching and research, the draft Strategic Plan's discussion of sustainability (beginning at Objective 35) is entirely restricted to operations. The campus Sustainability Action Plan, too, is limited to operations, in spite of the long hours spent by the advisory committee in rethinking and consulting about the university's possible commitment to sustainability. As long as the university has no sustainability action plan for its other three pillars - teaching/learning, research, and community - its operations work has limited credibility.

The Strategic Plan should pledge that the university will live up to its obligations under the Statement of Action, particularly in relation to what the Statement refers to as "research [and] education." In addition, the Strategic Plan should explicitly address toward the university's obligations under this Statement in numerous objectives, such as in the sections for academic programs; experiential learning; and research. There need to be new objectives (and strategies) for each of these points. Unfortunately, unless the university commits to the strategic plan for research and education that Pres. Turpin agreed to undertake when he signed the Statement of Action, any comments that the Plan might make on these areas can be little more than guesswork.

This note, then, represents a call for the university to do far more than revise its draft Strategic Plan.

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