XSS misses sustainability director

XSS insists that Xavier should fill the vacancy soon, cites lacking initiatives

By jesse dolojan, jackson hare and spencer tracy, staff writers

Xavier Student Sustainability (XSS) club has urged Xavier to hire a new sustainability director for the next fiscal year in correspondence with Dr. Colleen Hanycz, president’s, signing of the Laudato Si Action Platform (LSAP). XSS hopes this will inspire further action from the university administration toward improving campus sustainability.

The position of sustainability director has been unfilled since 2015. Currently, education professor Mary Vertuca and history professor Dr. Kathleen Smythe are co-chairs of the sustainability committee. Clare Ravizza, co-president of XSS and intern for the Xavier Sustainability Committee, noted that their academic responsibilities can create difficulties with these additional roles. 

“The co-chairs of the sustainability committee are both full-time faculty, so their primary commitments are to teaching at the university and all the other responsibilities that come with that,” Ravizza said.

Hiring a full-time sustainability director, according to Ravizza, will maintain consistent and attentive efforts toward making the university more sustainable. She highlighted where Xavier’s sustainability efforts have been lackluster in comparison to other competitive universities in the area. 

“Look at Dayton, look at Creighton, look at UC, look at Georgetown, look at us and see all these measures that they have implemented that we don’t have,” Ravizza said.

Neighboring universities are outperforming Xavier in terms of sustainability efforts, Ravizza noted.

“We’ve been formally doing sustainability work for the last 15 years but more informally for the last couple of decades — whether that’s getting our recycling program up and running or teaching about environmental issues,”  Sustainability Director at the University of Cincinnati Daniel Hart said.

Moreover, COVID-19 has hindered Xavier’s allocation of funds to sustainability, including the hiring of a new sustainability director. 

“That position was seen as, if you will, a financial ‘liability,’” Faculty Director of the Brueggeman Center Bill Madges said.

Smythe added that faculty and students are still hopeful the position will be filled. 

“In the last four or five years, it was not a high priority for the administration, and sustainability is weakened in its efforts and impact without that leadership,” Smythe said. “I think those of us who are invested in it are hopeful that President Hanycz will be interested in taking some leading action on it.” 

Ravizza shares this hope when considering President Hanycz’s commitment to the LSAP. 

“We’ve committed to a sustainability-related action plan that will hold us accountable every year for seven years, and we’re going to set our own goals,” Ravizza said. “I think it’s a really good way, especially with this new presidency, to recommit as a university to sustainability.” 

The LSAP is a nationwide, Catholic-led movement that provides resources for institutions and communities to respond to the climate crisis. Hanycz signed the LSAP, which some hope could encourage the university-wide commitment to Xavier’s Campus Sustainability Plan.

Ravizza hopes that Xavier can reevaluate its sustainability on a larger scale in accordance with these commitments. One part of this, according to Ravizza, is divesting Xavier’s fossil fuel usage. 

“As a Jesuit university that has made these commitments to the apostolic sciences, including Care For Our Common Home and Care For The Poor and Vulnerable, it doesn’t make sense that we are investing in the industry that is directly contributing to the climate crisis and is disproportionately harming the poor and vulnerable in our communities,” Ravizza said.

Faculty and students who are concerned with sustainability are confident that the university’s next step should be hiring a new sustainability director. Smythe emphasized Xavier’s critical position in the surrounding community and in Cincinnati as a whole.

“We are in a city that’s taking a national leadership position on this issue, and we happen to have one of the best mission and identity offices in the whole Jesuit network in North America,” Smythe said. “We could move mountains, but we need a little bit of leadership.”