Last week, when the Board of Trustees gathered for its April meeting, the Board failed to discuss one key issue: the details of Kenyon’s Carbon Neutrality Plan.
Ever-Green Energy (a renewable energy consulting company) has spent the past year researching and formulating a master plan that would include steps to retrofit Kenyon’s electricity and heating systems to be carbon neutral. The Board of Trustees first hired Ever-Green following pressure from a Climate Rally hosted by the Office of Green Initiatives in 2021. This community push was motivated by Kenyon’s lack of action after its commitment to carbon neutrality in 2016. Ever-Green has a record of leading higher education institutions toward carbon neutrality, including Oberlin College. As interns of the Office of Green Initiatives and leaders of campus environmental organizations, we have been informed that Ever-Green was supposed to present their research and suggestions at the February and April 2023 Board meetings, but this did not happen as planned. Instead, the Board has merely formed a working group to “review the preliminary findings of the carbon-neutrality plan and consider next steps,” according to its April 26 report.
Ever-Green’s contract is set to last through May 2023, by which point they are supposed to present their final recommendations to the Board. The status of the College’s working relationship with Ever-Green beyond next month is unknown to us, but the student body has heard no public updates about this year-long process. In contrast, the Board of Trustees has, for the Presidential search, formed a committee, sent a survey to the Kenyon community, hosted a forum, and provided two updates in the search’s three-month lifespan. We feel the Carbon Neutrality Plan is just as important and warrants the same level of attention and transparency. As students, it is our responsibility to hold Kenyon and its Board accountable for our carbon footprint.
Assuming the relationship with Ever-Green continues, the earliest the Board of Trustees will hear preliminary findings from this new working group is at its October meeting, about eight months after originally planned and almost eight years after Kenyon announced its commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. Unless auxiliary meetings with the entire Board are scheduled over the summer, the Board may not be able to vote on a course of action until its February 2024 meeting. This vote only includes high-level decisions, meaning planning must continue to determine implementation before any physical work begins. Kenyon might not achieve any actual reductions in carbon emissions until 2025. Therefore, these delays have real consequences on the 2040 deadline and Kenyon’s contributions to the fight against climate change.
These delays, along with other administrative action such as deforestation on campus and continued construction, are clear evidence that the Kenyon Board of Trustees has failed to prioritize the Carbon Neutrality Plan while continuing to express its commitment in the College’s newest mission statement and strategic plan. We as the student body must hold our Board accountable for its continued contributions to a bleak future and failure to update us on this process.
In the eight years that Kenyon has been committed to carbon neutrality, the administration has made little meaningful progress in emissions reductions and still has no concrete plan for doing so. If it takes the Board eight years to develop a plan, how long will it take to implement one, and what opportunities do students have to influence its development? We must speak up to ensure the Carbon Neutrality Plan receives the priority it deserves. If you are a graduating senior, use the Carbon Neutrality Plan as leverage when Kenyon asks for donations. If you will be on campus next year, make it known that the plan is important to you and advocate for the Board to move at a quicker pace.
Madi Hamilton ’23, OGI Intern
Hannah Hartshorn ’23, ECO President
Hank Thomas ’24, OGI Intern
Marissa Sun ’25, ECO Board Member
James Henderson ’23, Sunrise Executive Board Member