CMC Gets C in Sustainability, F in Transparency

The College Sustainability Report Card, an independent organization that provides sustainability profiles for hundreds of American and Canadian colleges and universities, has given CMC less than spectacular grades in their 2009 report. CMC's overall grade was a C, an average of the grades in nine other categories, which ranged from A to F.

The report highlights some of the new initiatives at CMC for sustainability, but it also draws attention to the lack of transparency and accountability for where our tuition dollars are being spent and how our endowment is being invested.

According to the Report Card website, "The profiles of 300 schools were created using information gathered through independent research as well as through voluntary responses from school administrators to three surveys." Grades assess performance across 43 indicators divided into three main categories: Administration, Climate Change and Energy, Food and Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Transportation, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement.

The Report Card defines its goals in the following way:

Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Are these considerations guiding how resources are managed in campus operations and endowment practices? The Report Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability.

The highest score for CMC came in the Green Building category, where it scored its only A. This grade is due to the new dorm and the rennovations to the towers, all of which meet LEED silver certification, and the plans for the Kravis Center and the new athletic center, which both will be LEED certified as well.

CMC received B's in two categories: Food and Recycling and Student Involvement and got a C grade in Transportation and Energy and Climate change. These are all areas where the college is working on improving (think new to-go containers and solar trash compactors), but still has a long way to go. It mentioned that CMC is "planning for a parking lot covered by a solar array." Interesting.

The College also received a C in Investment Priorities and received F's in the areas of Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement. Currently, CMC does not disclose how its Endowment is invested or what guidelines shareholders use to vote on the way money is spent. For the purposes of the report card, transparency is important for greater accountability for voting for sustainable investment. For us as students, knowing how our endowment is invested and who is making the decisions where to invest it is extremely important, especially in uncertain financial circumstances.

When I attempted to contact the Chief Investment Officer at CMC multiple times, to find out for another article, at the request of multiple students and faculty members, how the CMC endowment was doing in this current financial crisis, I was met with no response. In fact, the contact information of the CIO is not even listed on the CMC website and there is no reference to him. Nowhere is information made available to students at CMC about how the endowment is being invested or how shareholders are voting.

It is important for CMC to set a positive example and make a difference by making socially responsible and sustainable investments. However, the lack of transparency in CMC's administration goes beyond sustainability to infringing on our right to know how our endowment is being spent and the economic status of the school we attend.

Overall, CMC fared poorly compared to other prestigious liberal arts colleges and universities in the U.S., primarily because of its poor grades in investments and transparency and its lackluster performance on Energy and Climate Change, where many schools did very well due to their use of alternative energy. It appears that the college needs to pay more attention to its future impact, both environmentally and socially. One step toward this goal would be making information about the endowment available to students.

Oh. And not watering the sidewalks every night.

Also, check out what the CMC website says about sustainability.