On December 4th, University of Oregon students part of the informal group, Students for Sustainable Development, zip-tied protest signs on the fencing surrounding Hayward field, and on the recently put up fences around the construction site of the proposed new Hamilton residence.
The signs included the statements “Green Universities Don’t Break their Climate Action Promises,” “Progressive Universities Don’t Break Social Equity Promises,” and “Universities with Budget Crises Shouldn’t Waste Money,” peacefully calling attention to the money and resources the university has put towards numerous new construction projects on campus that go against the promises UO has made to move towards sustainability goals and towards equitable partnership with the greater Lane County community.
These new construction projects increase the energy load to the University’s central power station, fueled by natural gas and comprising 16% of the university’s carbon emissions.* At the same time the University refuses to invest in electrifying the campus heating system and connecting it to a renewable grid. The university has left behind promises they made in their 2010 Action Plan that required energy load increases from new buildings to be offset by renovations to old buildings,** and has abandoned their goal of becoming Carbon neutral by any specific end date, due to lack of data.***
Students for Sustainable Development believe the university is not only going back on their climate action promises, but social equity promises as well. In the University’s new climate action plan for 2019, they promise that the design and construction of new projects on campus will foster social equity.* It is unclear how the construction of Hayward field and the new Hamilton hall propose to do this. The money put towards these construction projects is immense, and Students for Sustainable Development believe this money could be put to better use. University of Oregon plans to spend 750 million dollars on construction over the next ten years. This construction aims to accommodate 3,000 more enrolled students, despite enrollment decreasing by roughly 2,000 students from 2012-2018.****
Students for Sustainable Development demands that the University place sustainability goals and the needs of the student population and local communities above excessive expansion. They call for the return of a cap on total energy use, a decrease in carbon emissions, and sustainable and socially just development, including localized renewable energy and projects that address genuine needs of students and community members, not those that support gentrification and are not beneficial to the majority of the Lane County community.