A group of faculty is proposing to add a sustainability requirement to St. Lawrence’s distribution requirements. Proponents hope to expose St. Lawrence students to the interdependence of humans and the natural system. Simultaneously, advocates of the sustainability requirement believe that a course focused on sustainability will help St. Lawrence create a cohesive marketing image for future students.
“Just as we believe that every student should have exposure to a humanities and social science course,”said Mary Hussmann, a professor in the English Department, “we believe that everyone should have a sustainability course.” Hussmann acknowledged not only that the school has adopted the Climate Action Plan and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to support it, but also that the university advertises location and outdoors and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to supplement those marketing tools. The St. Lawrence website even advertises the school as “an ideal location.”
In fact, the implementation of a sustainability requirement has been suggested before. Eve Stoddard, a professor in the Global Studies department, was part of a group that previously attempted to execute a sustainability course. In response to the recession, Stoddard’s group was trying to “brand St. Lawrence,” while creating a more conducive learning environment. According to Stoddard, sustainability “seems like something that students at St. Lawrence are committed to.” She believes that a focus on sustainability would be an intriguing way to attract students.
After a faculty caucus, however, Stoddard’s movement came to a halt. “I think a lot of faculty members want to have fewer requirements,” she said. She also added that many believed St. Lawrence did not have the resources to fulfill the requirement. For example, the faculty seems concerned that there would not be enough teachers qualified to teach the courses. It is important to note, however, that while both proposals contain sustainability requirements, they are not identical.
According to Hussmann, the sustainability component could now be fulfilled in a plethora of departments, meaning it would not be extremely difficult for students to complete the distribution or for the school to afford the distribution. In fact, Hussmann struggled to think of any department that could not incorporate a course that would fulfill the requirement. Even without sustainability as a distribution requirement, over 60 percent of students have taken a course that would fill the potential obligation.
Robert Thacker, an academic advisor, echoes the idea that a sustainability requirement would be rather easy to fulfill. He concludes that the only distribution requirement that is particularly difficult for students to fulfill is arts and expression. According to Thacker, “AEX has become a bottleneck,” meaning when students want to accomplish their AEX requirement, they have trouble finding the course. He concludes that a sustainability course would not have the same problem, as sustainability is more interdisciplinary.
The implementation of a sustainability course is far from definite. The faculty still needs to vote on the plan, and they might reject it. Even if it is passed, it would have to get approved by the state. Therefore the earliest a sustainability requirement could possibly be added to the distribution requirements would be the fall of 2013. According to Thacker, for that to happen “the stars would have to align.”