Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The latest in campus ideology: Sustainability!

I am a regular visitor to the Arts & Letters Daily website and have been for several years.

A few years ago, it was going under and then the Chronicle of Higher Education took it over and kept it running. I am a liberal in my political views, and like that it links to articles that make both liberal and conservative arguments.

A link to an article titled “From Diversity to Sustainability: How Campus Ideology Is Born” raised an interesting point that I had observed, both as an adult college student in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and today as a copy editor for a newspaper in a college town.

Sustainability is the new buzzword in the academy, the author argues, replacing diversity. I can confirm that the former has become the guiding ideology at the university in the city I’m working in, and countless articles in the local and campus newspaper have trumpeted the need for sustainability.

Indeed, there is an office of sustainability now on campus, with well-paid bureaucrats hard at work getting the message out that we’re destroying the world. You can even get your degree with a sustainability kicker or even a degree in sustainability, which will prepare you for a wonderful job at McDonald’s or Starbucks while you’re living in your parents’ basement.

But the environmental lunacy on college campuses dates back some time. I was a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., and working on the student newspaper. One day a young woman arrived at the office, and she was practically bursting out of her Birkenstocks with rage and anger.

I was deeper in the office, designing pages on the Mac Quadra we used then, and she was stomping her feet and snorting because of some environmental atrocity being committed by the cafeteria. The gist of it was that the cafeteria was dispensing drinks in Styrofoam cups, and SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE!

Remember, this was before the Web was a big deal, and I guess she wanted a front page story about how the FAU cafeteria was destroying the environment and ruining Florida. I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she was the daughter of a prominent attorney who led the fight against just about any construction in Palm Beach County. He styled himself as an attorney for the environment, but you can bet his family wasn’t living under an I-95 overpass.

Nothing came of the desired protests against the horrors of Styrofoam, but the recent stories I’ve seen with that magic word – sustainability – brought that memory back to me.

When you’re 18 and in college, it’s all so simple, but those of us who had been around the world had far bigger things to worry about than plastic or Styrofoam, like making a living, making good grades and getting our degrees.

“The power to enforce something, of course, always finds takers, no matter how petty the rules. Sustainability, however, seems especially suited to the rise of student enforcers. They might best be described as sustainabullies,” the author of the article notes.

The whole diversity bit was a yawn for me on the campus, as I had bigger worries. The gays had their crowd, the Muslims had theirs and the other groups had theirs. Maybe I should have started an Italian group.

Someday, the whole sustainability thing may burn itself out, but then the campus leaders will find a new gospel. Hopefully, I won’t have to design the pages for it.

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October 5, 2010 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

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