Diversity and Sustainability

Unity’s Diversity Committee yesterday presented the results of their spring survey to the campus community. You can see their presentation slides here. The survey aimed to assess attitudes about and perceptions of diversity on campus in order to determine needs and gauge diversity efforts in our community.  Survey respondents identified what the Committee is calling the “big four” diversity issues for our campus:

  1. sexual orientation,
  2. ethnicity,
  3. political ideology, and
  4. perspectives on the environment.

First, I’m not sure “environmental perspectives” makes it into very many campus diversity surveys — I often praise this rich aspect of Unity’s culture to my colleagues on other campuses for its influence on meaningful sustainability discussions.  Second, I think it’s important to recognize that more conventional aspects of diversity (e.g., sexual orientation, race, gender, physical ability, etc., etc.) are an important component of any institution’s sustainability profile.  Higher ed. sustainability, after all, is not only concerned with resource use and environmental impacts, but also social equity, community vitality, responsible governance, fiscal stability.

UC STARS ReportAASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) includes eight credits under its Diversity and Affordability subcategory, requiring schools to document their diversity efforts as integral to their sustainability performance.  The STARS Technical Manual states:

 In order to build a sustainable society, diverse groups will need to be able to come together and work collaboratively to address sustainability challenges…. [E]nvironmental injustice happens as a result of unequal and segregated communities.  To achieve environmental and social justice, society must work to address discrimination and promote equality.

Diversity work on our campus is an important aspect of Unity’s sustainability focus.  And the work of our Diversity Committee reinforces a conception of sustainability beyond simply recycling and solar panels.  Check out Unity’s STARS Report for documentation of our sustainability efforts in diversity.


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About Jesse