The University received a B letter grade in the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card released earlier this week, dropping down from its B+ rating last year. But, according to one University official, the University’s rating should really be higher.
The Campus Sustainability Report Card grades 332 colleges across the United States and Canada in nine different but equally weighted measures of sustainability. Data for the report card is collected via surveys that ask questions about each institution’s campus operations, dining services, endowment investment practices and student activities. Each question relates to sustainability.
Terry Alexander, executive director of the Office of Campus Sustainability, said the University’s B grade was “disappointing,” adding that he believes the reporting system is flawed and that the University deserved an A.
Alexander said there are a number of reasons why the University’s grade was lower this year. He said the main reason was because the College Sustainability Report Card never received a completed student survey from the University, which caused the grade for student involvement to drop from a B in 2010 to a C in 2011.
“Nobody from the student side ever returned the survey,” Alexander said. “So, what happens is the survey company then goes to the websites and other areas to gather information because they can’t get what they want from the survey that was never completed.”
Alexander said the survey was sent to the University last July, but he doesn’t know which student group or individual failed to return the survey.
“What we’re trying to do is try and figure out who they sent the survey to because they sent the survey out in July and most students aren’t around in July,” Alexander said. “So the odds are that nobody ever got the survey to respond to.”
According to last year’s report, the Michigan Student Assembly Environmental Issues Commission filled out the 2010 survey.
Of all institutions surveyed, the average grade for student involvement was a B. However, 44 percent of colleges and universities earned A’s, according to the report.
Alexander said many of the efforts the University is implementing to make its buildings more environmentally friendly — like green construction and using campus buildings more frequently — were not included in the report card data. The University’s grade in that category remains a B.
The University’s grade also fell in the transportation, student involvement and food and recycling categories.
According to the survey data, the University’s fleet of automobiles decreased in size by about 20 vehicles from 2010 to 2011, but the number of environmentally-friendly vehicles — including biodiesel, ethanol, gas-electric hybrid and electric vehicles — increased from 594 to 661.
When asked whether there was a bicycle-sharing program on campus in last year’s survey, the University mentioned the East Quad Bike Cooperative, a program that allows students to borrow bikes. While the program still exists, the University responded that it doesn’t have a bicycle-sharing program when asked the same question in the 2011 survey.
Also, when asked in the 2011 survey whether policies are in place “that support a pedestrian-friendly or bike-friendly campus,” the University answered no.
The University’s average grade for the transportation category was a B, but 37 percent of respondents earned an A.
Additionally, 55 percent of all schools surveyed earned a B-level grade for overall sustainability, putting the University on par with other institutions across the nation.
Compared to other Big Ten universities, the University of Michigan tied with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Indiana University in their sustainability grades.
However, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota earned top marks in the Big Ten, followed by Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Pennsylvania State University.