Is UTSA environmentally conscious enough?

In recent years, when “going green” became a popular movement, universities also began taking steps to lessen their “carbon footprint.” The question that UTSA freshman students were asked this past semester was whether UTSA had been a participant in taking these steps.

All students enrolled in a Freshman Seminar course with at least 12 total hours at UTSA were part of the Summer Common Reading Essay Contest, which was held by Learning Communities and the Writing Core Program. The contest was open to approximately 3,000 students in just over 50 sections.

Students were assigned to read “Farewell, My Subaru” by Doug Fine. Then they  were given a writing prompt to describe how “going green” has become a culture in the United States and at universities across the country. Students were also asked to include how they would improve sustainability at UTSA and to address how current and future “going green” changes at UTSA will affect the community and the world.

Each professor selected two students’ essays to submit to Learning Communities by Oct. 29.

“I picked essays based on whether they sufficiently met the paper prompt and grading rubric and whether they offered strong, coherent opinions about how UTSA could get greener,” said freshman seminar Professor Jeff Turpin said.

Out of all the essays entered three will win UTSA scholarships sponsored by the Writing Program. First place will receive $1,000; second place will receive $750; and third will receive $500. The students will also be honored at a private reception on Nov. 18, where the dean of undergraduate studies and the provost will be attending as well.

“This gives an opportunity for student’s ideas to be heard by upper administration,” said program coordinator Julie Fisher.

This contest was designed to award scholarship money, but also to give students experience in writing.

“Many incoming students can’t write at this level, and writing well is often integral to thinking well. We should do anything we can to help improve those abilities,” Turpin said.

The general consensus among students is that UTSA could be doing more for the “green” movement. Affordability is also a very big factor, but Fisher said that most of the students’ points mentioned “to save money, you have to spend money,” and that “through research, students have found that universities such as Harvard and Colorado are already green.”

“This contest demonstrated two important things. First, our students have good ideas about how to reduce the University’s carbon footprint. Second, they are quite cynical about the University’s “green” efforts to date,” Turpin said. “Many thought that future students would choose a school based on its conservation and environmental efforts, and if this is true it is definitely in UTSA’s best interests to follow some of their suggestions.”

Freshman students have spent the past semester reading, researching and constructing college level essays on the subject of “going green”. 

“Students are really looking forward. They are looking at things such as composting and really just looking out of the box,” Fisher said.