Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

HBCUs May Be Black, But They’re Not Always Green

September 3rd, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Yesterday’s Yahoo! news features included an interesting article in the rise of environmental rankings for U.S. colleges and universities. Apparently, the Princeton Review has added a “green rating” to its annual college guide. The rating will appear in the 2009 edition and is meant to indicate how “environmentally friendly, responsible, and committed the institutions are.”

According to the Princeton Review Guide, the schools with the best green ratings are: Arizona State University (Tempe),  Bates College, Binghamton University, College of the Atlantic, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of New Hampshire, University of Oregon, University of Washington, Yale University.

In addition there are a number of other rankings, some more scientific than others, that indicate those schools most heavily committed to (and successful at) reducing their negative impact on the environment. Curiously, almost none of those institutions are HBCUs.

A handful of HBCUs have signed onto the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. They are: Coppin State, Xavier University, Dillard University, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, and Norfolk State University. Though I am pleased that at least some HBCUs showed up on the list, many surprising names were missing from the list. I would, for example, have expected the presidents of Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, Hampton, and FAMU to have signed the Presidents Climate Commitment.

On those rare occasions when HBCUs showed up in the various green ratings and pledge lists, they were at the bottom of the rankings. The Sustainable Edowments Institute has developed one of the most thorough reviews of college environmental policies and sustainability. Howard and Spelman are the only HBCUs included on the Sustainable Edowments Institute 2008 College Sustainability Report Card, earning bottom marks for what the Institute describes as their failure to make significant movements on conservation, sustainability, and waste reduction. The Institute gave Spelman a grade of D-, which is at least higher than Howard‘s F.

Black colleges should be spearheading the spread of environmental awareness and the adoption of sustainable living strategies throughout the African American community. Instead, it seems that those HBCUs best positioned to make an impact (due to their strong endowments and national reputations) have yet to take action on their own campuses.

I would have hoped for better.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Academia, African Americans, Black Colleges, Current Events, Environmentalism, Higher Education, Princeton Review, race, Uncategorized

5 Responses

  1. Dale

    Given the level of environmental racism in the Black community, one would think that a desire to promote and practice sustainable environmental operations would be first on the list of HBCU administrators. Of course, this is not suprising. When do HBCU administrators put Black students or the Black community first?

  2. Latifa Z

    I attended Hampton University and got my Green degree in Marine and Environmental Science. It was one of the most eye opening and civic, responsible and lifestyle changing decisions I ever made. Is the green educational programs weighed into the green status rating?

  3. Ajuan Mance

    Dale, that is a good question. I think one of the issues may be that some HBCUs (not unlike many non-HBCUs) look at themselves as separate from the community.

    Latifa, it seems that the educational programs offered at an institution are not, in fact, taken into account in coming up with the green rating. I would like to see how the ratings might change if a college’s academic programs were considered in coming up with the rating.

  4. TKR

    I am interested in finding out which HBCU offer BS or BA degrees in Environmental Studies or Environmental Sciences. I have explored both the Thurgood Marshall and UNCF websites and both seem to imply that there are none; however, I notice that Latifa Z mentions an Environmental Science degree at Hampton. Does anyone have any info on a list of such colleges?

  5. Ryan

    TKR Florida A & M University has a renowned Environmental Sciences program at the Environmental Sciences Institute, offering BSc, Msc and PhD degrees in environmental sciences. You’d do well to have a look at their website.

    Their faculty, researchers, staff and students are among the brightest and the best in the nation. A member of faculty there Dr. Larry Robinson has recently been appointed by the Obama administration to serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.