Under President Emeritus David Skorton, Cornell began striving towards carbon neutrality by 2035, but this progress has been quickly halted by President Elizabeth Garrett. In an interview with The Sun in November, Garrett said she does not support the 2035 carbon neutrality goal; instead, she believes that the University should emphasize sustainability research rather than making the campus more environmentally conscious.
By prioritizing faculty research, Garrett rightly highlights the wide-reaching impact Cornell faculty have as leaders in sustainability and climate studies. However, she ignores the tremendous student and faculty movement calling for a more sustainable campus and the incredible progress this movement has achieved — such as a 30 percent decrease in Cornell’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2008 and energy conservation projects that have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to date.
Stepping away from the Climate Action Plan disrupts this progress and is ultimately a foolish move backed by a flimsy excuse. Academic research and sustainability practices need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to emphasizing environmental research, Cornell should set an example for peer institutions as a pioneer in campus sustainability.
Garrett’s cold-shoulder to the on-campus sustainability movement is not only a cowardly retreat from Skorton’s earlier pledge, but also demonstrates a disturbing trend within Cornell’s administration to brush off student voices. This tone-deaf approach — as seen in the College of Business decision and Garrett’s carbon neutrality decision — is eroding student and faculty trust. An administration that genuinely cares is an administration that respects the widespread concerns of students, faculty and staff and supports their actions to improve campus.