Letter to the Editor: USC must place more emphasis on sustainability

Like our fellow students, we were drawn to USC because we wanted a university with a global outlook to call home. At USC, not only would we have the ability to broaden our global perspective socially and academically on campus, but we also could live and travel globally through international programs that are designed to help create global leaders.

When each of us arrived on campus, it became glaringly obvious that though USC’s community and outlook span the globe, our environmental practices do not; USC does very little to address the catastrophic state of our changing environment. Environmental sustainability is arguably the largest problem facing our world, and USC cannot call itself a true global leader if it continues refusing to make sustainability a priority.  

USC has become a world-class institution in many respects — but not in environmental sustainability. We are a renowned research institution. We have rapidly climbed national rankings in academics and athletics. We have expanded our campus with the construction of USC Village. But our environmental performance lags far behind that of our peer institutions, far behind what our city and state expect of us and far behind what we expect of our university. Though many in the Trojan Family have worked hard to complete our Sustainability 2020 Plan, the plan’s goals are extremely modest, and we are not on schedule to meet all of them. We must do more — much more.

We address you now because the global environmental crisis has reached a critical point. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has made it clear that we have only 12 years to make “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. USC has the ability — and in turn, the responsibility — to aid in the mitigation of this global crisis. This is a truly transformative time for USC, and we see this as a unique opportunity for the new administration to prioritize sustainability.  

USC’s Environmental Core, Environmental Student Assembly and Undergraduate Student Government therefore urge USC’s leadership to commit to reaching these five goals as soon as possible: net zero water, net zero waste, net zero carbon, sustainability education and research as well as full transparency in developing a plan for reaching these goals and in assessing our progress toward them.

To aid in both accomplishing these goals and maintaining student involvement in sustainability at USC, we strongly support a living laboratories model as an essential component of reaching all five goals. Students are key players in the environmental movement on campus; engaging them in the shared work of making these crucial changes is vital.

On Nov. 30 at 1 p.m., our organizations will gather at Tommy Trojan to show support for the five requests delineated above. This peaceful demonstration will not be in protest of our current sustainability policies; rather, it will be in support of the creation of the University’s next aggressive, long-range Sustainability Plan.

Meaningful sustainable changes at USC must take place extensively and swiftly. As students, we are always thinking about our futures, but now this question has become even more daunting. Beyond our careers, our social circles, our travels and our hobbies, we also must consider what quality of life will even be available to us. We are running out of time, and the choices that we make now will heavily impact the choices we are able to make in the future.


Fight On for sustainability,

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Milena Castillo-Grynberg, Olivia Pearson,

Claire Mauss,

Catherine Atkinson

Representatives from Environmental Core, Environmental Student Assembly and Undergraduate Student Government.