I would like to congratulate the students who organized and participated in the campaign to gather signatures insisting that UB begin a search and commit to hiring a new director for UB Green as I retire this year. While UB's leaders will tell you that student pressure had nothing to do with their recent announcement that they are launching a search to find a new director for UB Green, don't believe them. I was present at a number of meetings where it became clear that there was some question about when such a search would take place and whether the person eventually hired would continue to lead UB Green.
So bravo to student power - you've got it, so use it! Please keep the pressure on the administration to support and strengthen our green campus program.
It is with a great deal of sadness and relief that I leave UB, after 26 years of doing my best to promote energy conservation and develop our green campus program. I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity I have had and of all the support a great many people have given me and our program over all these long years.
Despite the "spin" about how committed UB is to being an environmental leader, the commitment is not what it should be and that is one of the reasons I have decided to retire at this time. Over the past four years (ever since UB President John Simpson and Executive VP James Willis came to UB) I have sought to obtain their support for various environmental initiatives, but to no avail. In a recent letter to John Simpson, I have detailed my experience with his administration and the disappointment I have felt watching our green campus program drop from being one of the best in the nation to being "second tier," as a result of these four years of administrative neglect.
I realize that what I am saying may surprise people. After all, UB celebrated its environmental program last year when Al Gore visited. But that "Greener Shade of Blue" campaign was about public relations and not about supporting our green campus program.
Even President John Simpson's signing on to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment has turned into a disappointment. Campus master planning guru Bob Shibley was given the job of organizing UB's response to this climate neutrality pledge and he has done so in a bizarre, ineffective, and insulting fashion that has deliberately excluded my participation as well as that of UB Green and UB's long standing Environmental Task Force. Shibley's climate action committee consists of select administrators who are well meaning but generally lack appropriate expertise or passion for addressing UB's huge carbon footprint. One student has been allowed on the committee after students protested their exclusion last fall. While there is one faculty member, interested faculty members were also never invited to participate.
On any other campus, those of us with environmental and energy expertise, experience and commitment would be front and center in a climate neutrality planning process. Interested faculty, students, and staff would be welcome to the table, not barred from it. But not at UB. Why? Shibley's explanations take the form of embarrassing bureaucratic mumbo jumbo and make no sense. My guess is that this is about the administration's conservative corporate politics - a top-down model of decision-making, and a desire to put down advocates and activists like myself. Environmental advocacy (let alone dissent) is not appreciated at UB by President John Simpson and Vice President James Willis. And Bob Shibley appears to have been assigned the hit man's task of dismissing and neutering the environmentalists (all the while telling us he supports and respects our work and is an environmentalist himself). This is an intolerable deceit, and Bob Shibley, James Willis, and John Simpson should be ashamed of themselves for creating it.
Over many years, many of us have tried to build an energy conservation and green campus program for UB that would be a national leader. But instead of moving forward, we are sliding backwards because the guys that run UB just "don't get it." They don't understand that we are facing a global environmental crisis and that - despite UB's other laudable goals - we must be an environmental leader. And they also don't understand that to be an environmental leader they should be respecting and empowering campus environmental professionals, advocates, and activists - not trashing them.
The disappointments and frustrations have piled up. This past year especially it has become obvious to me that I cannot do the environmental work that I want to do at UB anymore. So I have decided to retire years earlier than I would have otherwise. My deep commitment to environmentalism and especially to addressing the emergency of climate change has not wavered. I will continue to work as an environmentalist, personally and professionally, just not here at UB. I strongly encourage concerned students, as well as faculty and staff, to insist that UB cut the BS, get with the program, support its activists, and do more. Let's give the next director of UB Green a fighting chance.
UB Energy Officer
Director, UB Green