Penn State Seeks "A Rapid Shift in Mindset" Toward Sustainability

Ashley Thorne

  • Article
  • December 15, 2009

Should sustainability be a "defining feature" of higher education? I examine the sustaina-zeal at Penn State U in a recent NAS.org article. It sounds as if sustainabullies are ready to invade every aspect of the university. Some takeaways:

  • Sustainability at PSU goes hand-in-hand with "global citizenship," which is antithetical to national citizenship and national patriotism.

  • PSU's Institute for Teaching Excellence sponsored a national Educating for Sustainability conference in order to "Promote sustainability in all sectors of higher education, but particularly the scholarly/academic arena."

  • The director of sustainability defines sustainability as "A pursuit that weaves economic, environmental, and social impact metrics in the assessment of decisions" and "A value system to weave into the fabric of our university."

  • A presentation at the conference urges that sustainability be factored in to promotion, tenure, accreditation, and “professional identity as an academic.” Sound familiar?

  • Much of one presenter's slideshow matched exactly a presentation given by Kathleen Kerr, the architect of the disgraced University of Delaware residence life program, known for coercion, intrusiveness, and attempts to indoctrinate freshmen living in the dorms.

  • Quote from presentation: “Be more methodical and systematic in all your efforts to create a shift of the norms here in curricula, policies and culture, and nationally (e.g. institutionalize it into annual reviews). [...] “A rapid shift in mindset is needed and education to action is the key.”

  • Quote from presentation: “Sustainability is everyone’s job. Doing nothing is not benign – it is a destructive decision for society.”

  • Michael Mann, implicated in the "hide the decline" emails, is a professor at Penn State U. After "Climategate" the university announced an investigation into his work. But will Penn State, so nurtured in sustainability, give him a fair investigation?
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