Pitzer May Add Environmental Studies Requirement

A proposal to add an Environmental Responsibility requirement to Pitzer College’s educational objectives will be presented to Pitzer’s Academic Planning Committee (APC) Tuesday, moving it one step closer toward faculty consideration and, ultimately, implementation.    

If put into effect, the Environmental Responsibility requirement would supplement Pitzer’s current six educational objectives—Breadth of Knowledge, Understanding in Depth, Interdisciplinary Perspective, Intercultural Understanding, Concern with Social Responsibility and the Ethical Implications of Knowledge and Action, and Critical Thinking, Formal Analysis and Effective Expression. Although the proposal has not yet been finalized, the current working copy of the plan outlines potential ways for students to complete the new educational objective if it were to be implemented. This includes an academic credit option, which students could fulfill by completing an environmentally focused full-credit course, internship or independent study. Students would also be able to meet the requirement through community service.    

Pitzer students would have to work with their advisors to plan programs that fulfilled the requirement.    

Environmental Senator Lindon Pronto PZ ’12 drafted and presented the proposal, which he has been developing for the past two years. The new objective is intended to enhance Pitzer’s five core values, one of which is Environmental Sustainability, Pronto said.    

“Pitzer has made all of these commitments to the environment and shown the environment as a priority, and it’s one of its major selling points in terms of incoming students,” Pronto said. “However, when students get to Pitzer, there’s no real framework in place for students to engage in environmental issues.”    

The proposal has already been approved by a majority of Pitzer’s student senate and endorsed by President Laura Trombley and Dean of Faculty Alan Jones. If the plan is approved by the APC at its meeting next week, it will then be presented to the faculty for consideration. Next, it will go to the College Council, Pitzer’s governing body, for final approval.      

In addition to seeking input and support from members of Pitzer’s administration and student senate, Pronto sent the proposal to students subscribed to Student-Talk, Pitzer’s student communication listserv, hoping to hear student opinions and input on the prospect of an Environmental Responsibility requirement.    

While many students supported the notion of the new requirement, the proposal’s reception on Student-Talk turned out to be contentious.    

“If this new requirement passes, future students will not have the time to participate in something they truly love,” Senator Andres Peña PZ ’13 said.

Pronto, however, said that the Environmental Responsibility requirement is meant to be a flexible way for students to augment their academic and extracurricular interests to more precisely reflect Pitzer’s core values and mission statement, which emphasizes environmental consciousness.      

“The environment relates to every field out there,” Pronto said. “It’s pertinent to every part of our lives, and so I don’t think it’s hard or far-fetched for any students to challenge themselves to come up with ways the environment relates to their major.”    

The APC will most likely pose some questions and seek some clarification regarding the proposal, which will help improve it is sent to the faculty for consideration, Pronto said.    

“I am very much in support of the spirit of the proposal,” said Environmental Studies Professor Paul Faulstich, who helped advise Pronto in drafting the plan. “I understand resistance to adding another set of requirements and having to have faculty and staff members oversee the implementation of all of this. However, as long as Pitzer College has environmental sustainability as one of the core values, which we do, and as long as environmental sustainability is a part of our mission statement, then I think that we need to get in line with that and have our curriculum model what our values and our mission are.”    

In addition to enhancing Pitzer’s core values and mission statement, the Environmental Responsibility requirement is meant to reflect Pitzer’s decision to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a network of colleges and universities that are dedicated to environmental sustainability, education and institutional changes to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions.    

“In order for Pitzer to be carbon neutral in the long term, we need to address behavioral change at Pitzer,” Pronto said. “In order for the administration to go forward on any real binding commitments of carbon neutrality and environmental action, they need the understanding of the students, their consent, and the students to push with them on the issues.”

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