On Monday, Dec. 9, in its final meeting of the semester, the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) voted to approve the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Climate, Culture, and Conduct, heard a presentation on recent sustainability initiatives, and discussed possible policies on electric scooters.
The presentation focused on measures in the Sustainability Action Plan directed towards land conservation and waste reduction. Though several members addressed safety and accessibility concerns resulting from scooter use, along with questions of the relative environmental impact of various transportation systems on campus, no resolution was reached.
Only one question had been submitted to the Council: “When will Princeton University live up to its motto to be in the service of the nation and humanity and divest from fossil fuels?” In response, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Jim Matteo answered that the CPUC Resources Committee has a specific procedure for evaluating divestment suggestions and that the University’s primary mission is educational, not political.
“It really is intentional about not focusing on political, economic, or social issues,” Matteo said.
Gabriel Duguay ’22 countered that students view climate change as an emergency, referenced the USG referednum proposed by Andres Larrieu ‘22 to make Sustainability Committee a Core Committee of USG.
“This is becoming something that they value on par with academics, on par with University student life, and it’s something we’re seeing a lot of protest on,” Duguay said.
Provost Deborah Prentice presented a motion to replace the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct with the CPUC Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Climate, Culture, and Conduct, which passed unanimously. The committee, which will be in place for three years, is charged with determining how to implement the two reports on the University’s Title IX policy released in October, as well as making annual reports to the CPUC Executive Committee. Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun will head the committee.
Director of the Office of Sustainability Shana Weber presented the University’s Sustainability Action Plan, which was released on Earth Day 2019 and takes a “holistic integrative design” approach. She emphasized that the campus’s sustainability efforts must remain connected with those of both the nation at large and the Princeton municipality, which released its own Climate Action Plan earlier this year.
Weber reviewed the University’s sustainability commitments, which include reducing water usage, expanding stormwater management areas, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2046. A new geo-exchange system will replace the current steam heating with hot water heating and will be implemented on all future campus construction, as well as gradually retrofitted to existing buildings.
One improvement she cited is the new greywater system for the University’s largest labs, which makes use of water from air conditioning units. Other recent sustainability efforts include the pilot opt-in utensil program, the shift to recyclable aluminum bottles in Frist, and a more efficient sprinkler for Bedford Field.
She said the Sustainability Action Plan includes searching for ways to advance stewardship of the habitats in the forestlands south of campus, on either side of Lake Carnegie. Her office will also work with alumni to make Reunions more sustainable, in addition to general efforts to reduce procurement and waste.
Weber noted that her office is also looking to increase student engagement in the development of sustainability initiatives — for example, through town hall meetings.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Janet Vertesi argued that students believe the administration treats sustainability as a “background” issue, and that the University’s carbon neutrality deadline is too distant in the future. She emphasized that the community must be equipped with the resilience to face such daunting threats.
Weber affirmed that climate change does raise mental health risks, pointing out the anomaly of “climate therapists” in the country in response to extreme anxieties over environmental issues. She said, however, that advancing the deadline would be difficult because of the significant infrastructure that must be transformed.
Assistant Vice President for Campus Services Debra Foster, Environmental Health and Safety Executive Director Robin Izzo, and Transportation and Parking Director Kim Jackson spoke on the issue of “personal mobility devices” — namely electric scooters.
Izzo cited studies at Rutgers and Washington University in St. Louis on the prevalence of facial and cranial injuries from electric scooter use. She reported that in the last year, UHS had 48 visits for injuries resulting from bike incidents and 11 from scooter incidents.
Furthermore, Izzo added that the University is considering whether to implement “rules of the road” for scooters, parking regulations, and a prohibition on using earbuds and smartphones on scooters. A complete ban on scooters, however, is not under consideration.
Jackson spoke of her own experience nearly being hit from behind by an electric scooter, which she said poses a threat because of the electric vehicles’ silent motors.
“Our pathways are not wide enough for all these devices,” Jackson said, referencing golf carts in addition to bikes and scooters.
Jackson advocated a scooter registration program similar to the current one for bikes and said that scooters being locked to handrails is a safety concern.
“It’s really important that we also get input from the community,” she added.
A mobility consultant is currently evaluating ways to improve all modes of transportation around campus, including walking, scooters, and Tiger Transit. The University is also considering the option of installing scooter racks with solar-powered chargers.
Several students mentioned peer pressure against wearing helmets, and one suggested a student-initiated advertising campaign for helmet use, similar to posters promoting vaccinations during the 2013 meningitis outbreak at the University.
One CPUC member suggested speed bumps, while another suggested bike lanes.
The meeting took place at 4:30 p.m. in the Frist Campus Center Multipurpose Room. The next CPUC meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 10.