BOONE — A resolution charging Appalachian State University administrators to take action toward achieving climate neutrality by 2035 was passed by the university’s Faculty Senate on Oct. 7.
A similar resolution was first tabled by the Faculty Senate in April. Faculty Senator Anatoli Ignatov, an assistant professor in the Sustainable Development Department, first proposed a climate neutrality resolution at the April 29 meeting.
The resolution at that time was crafted with the help of App State’s Climate Action Collaborative — a grassroots effort of students, faculty and staff that aims to push the university to achieve climate neutrality by 2025. Appalachian had previously committed to a 2050 goal of climate neutrality, which corresponds with the University of North Carolina systemwide sustainability policy.
The resolution recommended the creation of a climate neutrality working group comprised of staff, students, faculty and community members to develop a full roadmap toward climate neutrality by 2025. The resolution also requested aggressive energy efficiency measures and a 100 percent renewable energy purchasing agreement, an internal carbon price to incentivize lower-emission activities, substantial financial support for climate neutrality actions and mechanisms for oversight, accountability and transparency.
This resolution was passed by the university’s Student Government Association in March.
Several senators at the April meeting raised concerns about the resolution as it was presented. Faculty Senator Susan Doll, an associate professor in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, shared concerns from her department about the narrowness of the language used in the original proposal and the onus of action put back on departments without a commitment of resources.
Faculty Senator Scott Marshall, a professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, explained at the April 29 meeting that his department was behind the idea of a climate neutrality resolution but not the one that was drafted. He commented that the request for a committee as presented in the resolution did not require a faculty member with climate science expertise (as he thought it should) and that the the data behind the resolution had not been shared with the senate.
Marshall moved to table the resolution and asked to see it come back in a revised form.
“We’re so on board with the idea of this,” Marshall said at the April 29 meeting. “I’m not voting against this. I’m voting to give this a second life in a different form.”
In the following months, Doll and Marshall worked with Faculty Senator Brian Burke — an assistant professor in the Sustainable Development Department — on the rewording of the resolution. At the Oct. 7 meeting, Burke said the three had spent the last several months working with a broad range of stakeholders on campus to strengthen the resolution.
The resolution asks the university to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Burke said the resolution means that faculty want to see a clear road map on how to achieve these goals and want to constitute an ad hoc committee named the Climate Action Committee to monitor progress.
Additional goals of the resolution are the search and hiring of a full-time energy manager for the university; allocating resources necessary to maintain and expand investments in building energy use optimization; committing to using 100 percent of energy efficiency related cost-savings for ongoing carbon neutrality efforts on campus; committing to net-zero carbon emissions, integrated design and full useful life-cycle analysis of energy, emissions and costs for all future planning, construction and renovation projects; requesting New River Light and Power for quotes for an immediate transition to 100 percent renewable energy purchasing in 2022 and a gradual transition to total renewable energy purchasing by 2035; establishing a comprehensive environmentally preferable purchasing policy to improve the environmental and social performance of the university’s supply chain; and establishing additional institutional policies and procedures to incentivize and support energy efficiency and carbon neutrality.
Several weeks ago, Burke said the three met with Chancellor Sherri Everts, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Paul Forte and Chief Sustainability Officer Lee Ball.
“They all praised us for the work and expressed appreciation for the added pressure,” Burke said.
Doll said those who have commented on the newly written resolution state that 2035 is an ambitious goal, but supportive comments were given as well.
Burke added that faculty have had an important role in advancing carbon neutrality on other campuses, such as Penn State University. He explained that Penn State’s emissions turnaround started with faculty support that later garnered staff and student support as well.
“Several colleges and universities in the United States have already achieved carbon neutrality and over 100 other colleges and universities in the United States have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2035,” according to the resolution.
Once the resolution was passed, the room burst into applause.
The group also passed a motion from the Faculty Senate’s budget committee concerning merit pay. It was during the Sept. 9 Faculty Senate meeting that Everts announced that administrators had readjusted the university’s budget and identified funding for merit-based raises for faculty ranging up to 4.99 percent.
The motion explains that merit raises are generally based on performance judged by criteria set by the university, college and departments. The motion states that Faculty Senate will urge deans to assure department chairs and program directors that they shall have discretion to consider merit over a longer period than the past academic year, or in other ways that may be acceptable to faculty in a department. This would be in an effort to assess merit over time when salary raises have been low or non-existent.
The motion also requested that deans, department chairs and program directors make the process of allocated raises transparent, and encouraged departments to develop criteria to guide the process for determining merit.
The motion was amended during the meeting to add language that would include cases related to a gender merit pay gap. The suggestion was first made by Faculty Senator Kin Yan-Szeto, a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.
An in-house faculty gender pay study was discussed during Faculty Senate’s Dec. 3, 2018, meeting. Research found at that time that salary differences exist by gender at most rank levels at the university — with women experiencing lower pay at most ranks for most years evaluated.
It was discussed during the meeting whether the gender pay gap needed to be addressed separately from the merit raises, as to not confuse the two. Those in opposition suggested creating a separate resolution to address the gender pay gap.
However, Yan-Szeto said the motion did need to include language addressing the gender pay gap to hold administrators accountable. The language proposed did address merit raises as it applied to women who were performing well in their department, but were not getting the raises because of their gender, she said.
“Salary equity is a merit issue because when I do equal work but I’m not getting paid for it there is a merit issue,” Doll said.
Faculty Senator Jay Fenwick, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, suggested the approval of the amendment as well as additional research and resolutions later on. The amendment and motion were both approved.