At the beginning of last semester, just four months ago, the Board of Trustees made a glaring change to FGCU’s official mission statement.
The mission statement used to read that FGCU “practices and promotes environmental sustainability,” but the BOT chose to remove the word “practices.” I’ve been struggling to understand how that could have been considered a smart business decision. I realize I don’t know the facts of how they came to the decision, though I do know that it appears none have been released.
It would be one thing if the statement never included the word “practices” to begin with, but that isn’t the case. It’s not okay to say that you practice and promote healthy eating, gain a bunch of supporters who believe in your message, and then decide to stop practicing one day, eat Big Macs and still keep promoting kale smoothies. Who would believe and trust you? This situation is the same thing: FGCU has 400-acres that are considered environmental preserve, several acres of solar panels, and has won multiple awards for being a “green” school; it doesn’t just get to turn its back on that fact now.
Some may argue that it doesn’t matter how it happened; what’s important now is getting it reversed; but, I would argue that if these people—the members of the BOT—are responsible for making a decision of this magnitude, they should be aware of the negative implications, why it wasn’t a good idea and how it doesn’t align with the university’s values. And while it’s nice to see that President Bradshaw and Chairwoman Roepstoff plan to propose the question to the BOT to change the statement back, I think it’s incredibly important for the BOT to understand the gravity of the choice it made, and the students deserve an explanation of why this change was made.
Was enough consideration taken? Do the members of the BOT understand why this decision was not in the university’s best interest? It’s crucial that the university’s decision makers know what is important to us students. It is well-known that FGCU being a “green” school is what has attracted many people here, and has even been the deciding factor for some students choosing this university.
The only scenario in which I think it would be acceptable to change the verbiage as they did, would be if it were a lie — If the university truly were no longer practicing sustainability. Could that be the case? Recently, we learned that the new entrance road being built on campus is likely not going to include a wildlife underpass to accommodate the estimated 15 gopher tortoises that live there. There just isn’t enough in the budget. Gopher tortoises are a threatened keystone species. The university is certainly not practicing environmental sustainability by not investing in the underpass. In fact, it makes me scratch my head that with the environmental values that this school was literally founded on, there is budget enough to bring a Dunkin’ Donuts to campus, but not enough to protect one of Southwest Florida’s most important species.
Kudos to FGCU student Brittany Jacobs for starting the petition to get the statement changed back and standing up to keep the integrity and standards at FGCU where they should be.