University is doing great on sustainability issues but still should sign commitment

To the Editor:

We congratulate Yale for its leadership on sustainability issues. The work being done at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, President Levin’s recent pledge to become the “greenest” University, and so many other meaningful initiatives exemplify Yale’s position at the forefront of this movement.

We also thank the News for the News’ View editorial “Sustainable solutions lie in lab, not lights” (2/21) on whether President Levin should sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. We wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments that Yale should not make empty political commitments, and that Yale’s scholarship could have a greater impact in fighting global warming than its operational efforts.

However, we would like to offer some points of clarification on the President’s Climate Commitment.

First, it does not require Yale to become climate neutral by 2020. Signatories set a target date for climate neutrality and interim targets for achieving that goal on their own schedule. Setting ambitious, but achievable, goals for the future is a powerful way to prompt necessary, meaningful action today.

Second, the commitment does require schools to incorporate sustainability issues into education and research. It’s not the lights or the lab — it’s both. The full text is available at

Third, a critical element of the Presidents Climate Commitment is leadership by institutions of higher education. The presidents of the 90 institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, who have signed the commitment to date realize that collaborative action toward a common goal is necessary to deal with this challenge. Further, they accept the scientific consensus that we need to dramatically reduce and greenhouse gases emissions quickly in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to re-establish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible.

Yale and other Ivy League schools carry a lot of clout in higher education and society as a whole — they are expected to be leaders on important issues. Given the great work Yale has already done in leading this fight, it is well on its way to fulfilling the requirements of the commitment, and has a great opportunity to leverage its position for the greater good.

We hope that with this clarification of key details and philosophy the News will re-evaluate its stance and encourage President Levin to sign the President’s Climate Commitment.

Tom Kimmerer

Feb. 22

The writer is the executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Yale administration has been working with city, community on development

To the Editor:

(Re: “New college plans must consider Dixwell,” column, 2/21)

It was great to see Steven Engler’s interest in how Yale considers campus development in a context including our neighbors in New Haven, as that interaction is fundamental to our campus planning. The answer to his simple question of whether Yale shares and listens with neighbors is simple: yes, and resoundingly so.

For the potential development of property Yale has long owned on Prospect Street below Ingalls Rink, we have been talking with neighbors in nearby Dixwell for a long time. We discuss the topic with the neighborhood management team — where the Yale administration participates normally — among numerous other contacts with neighborhood block watches, churches, schools and citizens.

The Board of Aldermen approved a development agreement unanimously, in part because of strong neighborhood interaction and support seen at two public hearings in August and September. This led to headlines in progressive newsblog New Haven Independent, “Neighbors Give Yale Thumbs-Up on Land Deal” (9/22/2006); in the News, “Residents back Univ. expansion” (9/22/2006); and in the statewide Hartford Courant, “Yale’s Plans Greeted Warmly” (10/9/2006).

As Sarah Mishkin wrote in a News article five months ago, “Dixwell residents praised the development for reflecting the wishes of that neighborhood, particularly with regard to expanding Scantlebury Park.” By the way, Mishkin was right to describe this as a development — rather than an expansion — as Yale has owned the land in question for many, many decades, and this is nothing like developments in Morningside Heights or Allston being undertaken by Columbia University and Harvard University, respectively.

Communication and collaboration are hallmarks of the way the Yale University administration pursues planning, on campus and in the community. That has been our practice and will continue to be.

Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93

Feb. 21

The writer is Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and State Affairs.