UI Faculty Senate passes climate-emergency declaration

The University of Iowa Faculty Senate and Faculty Council met in a joint session on Tuesday and passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency.


Emily Wangen

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld addresses the Faculty Senate during a meeting in the Old Capitol Senate Chambers on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Harreld talked about the approval of the public/private partnership.

Katie Ann McCarver and Kelsey Harrell

One day after University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld declared a climate crisis in a Daily Iowan interview, Faculty Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution supporting such a declaration.

The resolution — slated for consideration before Harreld’s Monday remarks — states that Faculty Senate and Council acknowledge the existence of climate change, the university is in a position to do something about it, and it will use its available talent and resources to do so.

“With our value of shared governance, we thought it was appropriate that we take it through the various bodies that govern areas of the university,” Irish said.

The College of Engineering will discuss a slightly different, more detailed version of the resolution, she said.

Staff Council will discuss the resolution at its meeting Wednesday, said Erin Irish, co-chair of the Sustainability Presidential Charter Committee.

As previously reported by the DI, UI Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz assembled a group of undergraduate, graduate, staff, and faculty leaders that met over the last several months to contemplate how to address climate change.

The UI will create eight sustainability subcommittees and work groups for faculty, staff, and students to participate in addressing sustainability on campus, Faculty Senate President Sandy Daack-Hirsch said.

The subcommittees and work groups include sustainability plan progression, which will report the workers of the other committees to make sure the sustainability plan is on track; student call-to-action items; public/private partnership climate and sustainability; and more.

UI Office of Sustainability and the Environment Director Stratis Giannakouros told the DI Monday that the university is considering adding a sustainability-centered general-education course to better equip students to address a changing climate.

Faculty Senate Past President Russell Ganim echoed this effort Tuesday, stating that there is discussion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to add a sustainability component to general-education requirements.

“Obviously, faculty and students are going to be heavily involved in making that a reality, or at least considering it,” Ganim said. “So, we need to move forward with that collaboration.”

Ganim added that faculty who sit on curriculum-development committees can also participate in campus climate action through these efforts.

RELATED: UI president: Declaring a climate crisis must come with action

Members of UI Student Government wrote the resolution before it came before the Sustainability Charter Committee, Irish said. The committee felt it was important to bring the resolution before the Faculty Senate and Council for consideration, she added.

UISG and Graduate and Professional Student Government climate-emergency resolution at a joint session earlier this fall.

Daack-Hirsch said the resolution will eventually end up back before both student-government bodies to receive their “expression” of support before it goes to Harreld.

“I think it’s important to support things that are important to the students first and foremost, but this involves a lot of the faculty’s research and our teaching mission,” Daack-Hirsch said. “And so, I think that it’s important for the Faculty Senate to acknowledge that those things are happening on this campus, and that we’re aware … that we’re committed to these things.”

She added that there’s an “amazing” amount of work already being done in regard to campus climate change, and that it’s important to support that work.

“I think we are bold in the things that we’re doing and we’re leaders in this area,” Daack-Hirsch said. “I think what we’re not good at is publicizing what it is we’re doing.”

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