Upon first glance Claremont McKenna's mission is that which Benson, Salvatori, and McKenna set out for us. We must follow our motto, crescit cum commercio civitas-- "Civilization prospers with commerce."
But, President Gann has created another motto for us -- "sustainability." (I haven't the foggiest what that is in Latin -- or English, really.)
While Pomona jettisons its alma mater, "Hail, Pomona, Hail!" because it is has fallen out of fashion by the unelected elites who see it as racist, so too has Claremont McKenna's President, Pamela Gann rejected our motto and our mission in favor of what she wants. Long has it become fashionable among certain members of this community to say how bad it is that some Claremont McKenna students decide to become "I-bankers." (It's a vast generalization and whenever I ask for real evidence that there are apparently so many I-bankers, I never get it.)
Many of you have told me not to worry about this issue, represented most recently by the new "green" Kravis Center; you argue that it is just corporate PR, but I have reason to believe that it is something far more insidious -- the quiet repeal of our school's mission.
We really should have seen this coming. It would have been evident from June 12, 2007 when Gann signed the Campus Carbon Neutral pledge -- almost certainly committing all of us to higher cost energy at Claremont McKenna and higher expenditures should she follow through with her commitment. Incidentally, the signatories of the pledge -- "the first effort by any major sector of society to set a long-term goal" -- control the campuses of 1 out of 8 students going to college in the U.S.
Beyond the buildings, we can expect stupid policies determined by the other presidents.
According to the pledge she signed, we are committed to at least two of those concrete actions.
The presidents will create a comprehensive institutional action plan to move towards climate neutrality. In the short term, each President is committing to immediately taking two or more of the following concrete actions:I ask for nothing less than real leadership by President Gann. Just say "no" to your friends in the academy. You should listen to President David Oxtoby who calls "the idea of carbon neutrality" "a myth." President Oxtoby, a former chemist, who, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education "worries that colleges cannot erase their climate impact without taking unreasonable steps." Of course you should lead on this issue and leave the pledge to the relic of dumb policies advocated by academics.
Adopting green standards for buildings;
Requiring ENERGY STAR certification for products purchased by the university;
Offsetting emissions due to air travel;
Encouraging public transportation;
Purchasing energy from renewable sources; and
Supporting climate and sustainability shareholder proposals through their endowment.
These two missions of sustainability and commerce could not be further apart as depends upon growth -- that of ideas, businesses, and productivity -- while sustainability believes in the manicured, managed life. Of course life is change. (On that, at least, Obama is absolutely right.)
For the economists among us, it's Schumpeter versus Keynes and while everyone else in the world embraces Schumpeter's "creative destruction," we seem ready to try Keynesian's faulty, manged equilibrium. But the reason Keynes failed was that the entrepreneurial capitalism that Schumpeter advocated always drove down prices, while the state-run capitalism that Keynes's disciples want often leads to just the opposite of creative destruction -- boring statism--and higher energy prices. But colleges are like companies and they will pass those costs on to others.
In the next post, I'll be explaining why the Roberts Environmental Center's efforts toward "sustainability" are silly at best, damaging at worst, and why voluntary efforts to reduce lead to profit reductions in our endowment and may end up leading to fewer students attending Claremont McKenna.