Campus considers taking Green Pledge

Carnegie Mellon has, in recent times, visibly stepped up its environmental efforts by offering recycling education programs and building energy-efficient dormitories. On April 1, the University not only received the Governor?s Award for Environmental Excellence, but also organized a panel discussion to install a Graduation Pledge to encourage Carnegie Mellon graduates to implement environmentally conscious thinking in their daily lives.
The discussion, held in McConomy Auditorium, was led by Indira Nair, Vice Provost for Education; Ryan England, president of ?Earth;? Erik Michaels-Ober, Student Body President; and Barb Kviz, the environmental coordinator for the University. About 15 other people attended the discussion, offering their own input and giving the event a more intimate feel.
The discussion was kicked off with the presentation of the pledge itself: ?I, _________, pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve the aspects of any organization for which I work.? The pledge was open to modification, since it serves only as a model and is used in numerous other schools. The model pledge was started in 1987, and since then it has expanded to over 100 schools around the country.
Some universities have given the Graduation Pledge a particularly visible role on their campuses; Harvard organized a series of panel discussions about conscious career choices for its students, and Princeton managed to get 80 percent of its senior class to sign the pledge.
A question quickly arose over whether or not the pledge should be given at CMU?s graduation or at convocation. As discussed, if all first-years were introduced to the Pledge as soon as they entered campus, it could easily be incorporated into their education. A sense of responsibility for the ideals of the Pledge would thus exist not only when a graduate enters the work force, but also during his or her time in college. Some requirements, such as attendance at service events or panel discussions, could even be instituted for those who wished to sign the Graduation Pledge at the end of their college careers. ?Simply taking the pledge doesn?t mean anything,? said Michaels-Ober.
The panelists and attendees also discussed the meaning of the Pledge and whether its presence reflects progress or lack of progress. They questioned the motives for Carnegie Mellon instituting the Pledge. Is it because we want to make environmental consciousness more visible or because it does not exist on a large enough scale?
While Carnegie Mellon is consistently moving in a more environmentally-friendly direction, some projects on campus, such as those funded by large corporations, cannot always take environmental issues into consideration. Some attendees suggested that an ethics course be made a requirement for all undergraduates, including those with scientific or technical majors. Michaels-Ober hoped that a student organization would be started specifically to implement the pledge and organize related service opportunities and panel discussions.
Seniors interested in signing the Graduation Pledge will get a chance to sign it as part of this year?s Earth Day festivities on April 22. These students will wear green ribbons on their gowns during commencement to indicate the promise they have made. In the future, the panelists hope to include more extensive honoring of these seniors, including a celebratory dinner. According to Nair, she hopes to institute the opportunity for students to do an exercise that would test their behavior in certain situations and thus show how environmentally and socially conscious they already are, and what mistakes they might be making in their daily routines.
Nair was not sure if having the majority of the senior class sign the Pledge would be a good idea. There is a fine line, she said, between encouraging students to be a part of the Pledge and having students sign it without a sense of commitment to it. ?You have to come to the decision [over time],? Nair said.
More information on the Green Pledge Alliance can be found at www.graduationpledge.com.