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Our Sustainable Future

Opinion | February 28, 2011

Since the selection of a new Tufts President on November 30, Tufts students have been flooding Google with the name Anthony Monaco. Some wanted to see if his hailing from Oxford meant he would have a British accent, some were curious about his family, and some of us were pursuing more serious topics, hoping to determine if we could count on this new university leader as a champion of our most valued causes. I, personally, was looking into Monaco’s stance on the environment. As it turns out, he has plenty of experience—so why hasn’t he advertised it?

According to his CV, Monaco is chairman of Oxford’s Sustainability Steering Committee, a title that indicates not only significant knowledge of the importance of enacting environmentally-conscious policy at a university, but also considerable experience in such endeavors. The Sustainability Steering Committee makes decisions for a sustainable future based on the input of the Environmental Panel, a comprehensive organization featuring an array of campus interest groups. The panel exists to “provide a forum for the exchange of information and discussion of matters relevant to the implementation and development of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Policy.” This policy, while a bit vague and lacking any concrete goals or standards, presents a holistic view of sustainable development, addressing concepts from energy and greenhouse gases to sustainable purchasing to biodiversity.

As chairman of the committee that creates highly informed environmental policy, Monaco clearly  has experience with sustainability at a university level—so why didn’t we see this in his platform? Monaco is in charge of sustainable development at Oxford; this is no small feat. Regardless of the area, being the head of an overarching university committee seems worth highlighting or at least mentioning in a campaign for university president. And indeed, Monaco thought so, too. In January of 2010, Monaco became one of three finalists for a coveted spot as the executive vice chancellor and provost for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to The Daily Tar Heel, the school newspaper, “Monaco’s ambitions for UNC include increasing environmental sustainability, promoting diversity among faculty and enhancing the student experience in both classrooms and residence halls.” His goals for Tufts were the same, except for the notably absent move for “increasing environmental sustainability.” Where did this environmentalism go? Are we responsible for its disappearance?

To start with the latter question, I think the answer is a resounding “yes.” Monaco has the experience, has included his penchant for sustainability in previous campaigns, and clearly knows how to market himself—he was chosen as our next president, after all. I think we can blame ourselves for not making environmentalism a priority. Although one paragraph of the 22-page document detailing the job description for president describes Tufts’ history of environmental sustainability, not one section of the four pages detailing the qualifications for president and the opportunities and challenges for a new president at Tufts mentions environmental leadership. Beyond this, I would doubt that anyone came forward and pushed the issue of sustainability.

Diversity became a big issue in this bid for president, not only because of its inherent importance, but also because individuals came forward and made their voices heard—they asked for a president who valued diversity, and the university listened. Increasing diversity, working toward need blind admissions, and maintaining an international, global perspective are all ideas Monaco presented because they are all ideas he knew Tufts values. I don’t think he knew we valued environmental sustainability because neither the university nor the student body made a point to highlight this issue. Only by combing through Monaco’s CV could I find any indication of his environmental involvement; there was no mention of it in any of the materials the university published after his selection, nor in his interview with the Daily. We supposedly pride ourselves on being a “green” institution but what is that worth if we don’t ask for environmental leaders?

I’m hopeful that despite the previous apathy we showed towards the environmental credentials of our next president, Monaco’s environmentalism hasn’t gone anywhere; ideally, he will take Tufts in a new direction, using his expertise in sustainable development to build a better, more environmentally conscious Tufts. We stand at a critical point in the university’s development: here we have a leader with the knowledge and power to take Tufts in the direction many of us want (and know that we need) in this ecologically degraded world; Monaco’s actions as president will determine whether or not we take this path. Can we as a community care enough and push hard enough to prove that these issues matter to us? I have enough faith in Tufts students to pose a tentative “yes.” What I know for sure is that we need to start asking and showing right now that we as a campus value the environment, and that our next president should take this into consideration if he wants to meet the needs of his campus. So, future President Monaco, I’m imploring you: please use your expertise and experience to take the Tufts community in a more sustainable direction. It does matter to us.