Green Thoughts

I wish to applaud your coverage of the University’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, as discussed in “Blue, Orange, and Green” (Winter 2007) and to also thank Mr. [Sonny] Beale and his colleagues for exceeding a 41 percent recycling rate. I had the pleasure of majoring in environmental science at the University in the early 1970s and am heartened by efforts to improve environmental sustainability on Grounds.

I was discouraged, though, to see that little is being done to recycle food scraps. Virginia’s citizens discard an average of 345 pounds of food scraps per person per year (amounting to 1.3 million tons, or 12 percent of all solid waste generated and discarded in the Commonwealth). Landfilling these food scraps contributes to the formation and emission of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more problematic than carbon dioxide.

Many universities are adopting programs to collect and compost dining hall food scraps, either on-site or at a nearby permitted composting facility. Compost created from food scraps is a valuable soil amendment, bringing physical, chemical and biological benefits to soils, while reducing inputs of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Reusing food-scraps compost on Grounds in the beautifully landscaped areas closes the loop and maximizes environmental sustainability.

Those of us who have built our lives and careers around wise and sound environmental management are thankful for all the progress we, as a nation, and as Virginians, have made over the past 30 years. However, there is more to be done. The nonprofit Virginia Recycling Association (www.vrarecycles.org) has a new Organics Recovery Committee, whose mission is to improve the recycling rate for organic materials like yard trimmings and food scraps. I invite interested students and alumni to help us achieve our mission.

Craig Coker (Col ’75)
Roanoke, Va.
Director, U.S. Composting Council
Chair, VRA Organics Recovery Committee

 

The article regarding sustainability at UVA egregiously misrepresented the University’s current policies on sustainability. During my tenure at UVA, Students for Environmental Action (SEA) placed an item on the student referendum asking if students would be willing to pay additional fees to pay for renewable energy credits that would offset approximately 7 percent of the University’s electricity use, which currently comes from an on-site coal plant and other fossil fuel and nuclear sources. Despite overwhelming approval at the ballot box, the administration refused to authorize such a fee, even when I and other SEA members suggested that such a fee could be voluntary. For years, the administration met repeatedly with SEA members, including myself and past president Khalial Withen, regarding purchase of renewable energy credits. After providing a bevy of excuses and assorted diversionary tactics, the initiative failed. While I applaud the University’s decision to construct all new buildings to LEED standards, this was a directive from the governor, via Executive Order 48, not a University initiative. To my knowledge, the only significant environmental initiatives the University has undertaken are green roofs at Rouss and on the South Lawn, purchase of biodiesel and hiring of an energy manager, Paul Crumpler, who has done an outstanding job. Rather than writing a puff piece for the University’s tepid sustainability agenda, you could have written an article about what is possible, and what should be expected, from Virginia’s flagship university.

Zack Fields (Col ’06)
Reston, Va.

 

I was extremely disappointed when I read the box on “What is sustainability?” in the article on the “greening” of the University. Sustainability is a simple concept, and its simplicity is its power to keep us focused on the goal. Sustainability is the preservation of the earth’s resources for future generations. It is the goal of leaving no negative impact on our environmental resources, just as the hiker in the woods should leave no trace of his presence when he has gone.

It is not sustaining current erroneous human practices and has no negative connotations. Nor is it merely “environmental improvement.” It is the management of economic and human activity without a negative impact on the earth’s finite resources.

Critical thinking requires simplicity and focus. Only by staying focused can we truly “save the planet.”

Robbie Babbitt (Col ’77, Arch ’82)
Centreville, Md.

 

For months I have been bothered by the needless plastic packaging the Virginia Magazine arrives in, but when I saw the cover of the Winter 2007 issue titled “How Green Are We?” I had to voice my complaint. Please do not just jump on the newly hip “Be Green” bandwagon. Actually live it from the bottom up: Get rid of the plastic cover on your publication and begin using 100 percent recycled paper.

Sarah Mumford Peacock (Col ’96)
Fort Collins, Colo.

 

Your latest “Green” issue was timely and provided good coverage of the sustainability movement on Grounds. Unfortunately, a glaring inaccuracy was present in the ”What is sustainability?” inset.

In that passage, Provost Tim Garson offered “environmental improvement” as an alternative to the word “sustainability.” We are dismayed at his suggestion, as it is wholly inaccurate and only serves to reinforce a misconception of the term.

Garson’s classification of sustainability as environmental improvement fails to acknowledge sustainability’s three tenets of ecological health, social justice and economic prosperity. The problem is not the word, but the challenge in moving beyond jargon to fully understanding the term in its broader sense of relationships and interconnectedness. Interestingly enough, and thankfully, there are accurate references to the three tenets and the “triple bottom line” elsewhere in the article.

How could sustainability have negative implications? In the water and disease example, sustainability would mean having enough clean water to sustain a healthy quality of life. The environmental aspect of clean water connects to public health and poverty. It should seem fairly obvious that the concept of sustainability would not mean “business as usual” in this case.

Since our immediate and shared community is the UVA Grounds, we encourage all students, staff, faculty and alumni to acknowledge that sustainability is more than “green.” It is a way of living in the world with an ethical outlook that recognizes the impact on where we live.

In brief, we must recognize how our daily choices and actions influence the three tenets of sustainability. As suggested by Leonard Sandridge at the University’s community briefing in June, “Sustainability is not a project with start and stop dates. Rather, what we are promoting is a culture.”

Elizabeth K. Meyer (Arch ’78, Grad ’82), FASLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Anne T. Bedarf, C.E., Candidate, Master of Urban and Environmental Planning (Col ’92)
Kathy Cacciola (Arch ’07), Executive director of Green Grounds 2007 and principal author of the University’s Sustainability Assessment report
Zoe Edgecomb (Arch ’08), Co-executive director, Green Grounds UVA 2005-06
Liz Hoogheem (Arch ’09)
Toshihiko T. T. Karato, EIT (Arch ’09)
Thomas Salaki (Arch ’08)
Dusan Stupar, UVA visiting scholar 2007-08, Ph.D. candidate in landscape architecture, University of Ljubljana biotechnical faculty


Rising Above Rivalry

It is with great dismay and disappointment that we acknowledge the disparaging banner that flew over the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 (WE HOKIES HAVE ACC+BCS. U HAVE VA PRIDE). We write to admonish whoever was responsible.

Frankly, this was embarrassing, childish and hardly worthy of anyone purporting to be a Hokie. Most importantly, the underlying sentiment in no way reflects the high esteem our administrators, students and faculty—and indeed the entire Hokie Nation—have for the University of Virginia, its faculty and leadership, its students and alumni, and its excellent sports program.

The heartfelt expressions of support by the University of Virginia and her alumni for Virginia Tech during the dark days of April reverberate to this day. Then, as now, we all stand proud as Virginians and for our sister institutions.

A rivalry is a rivalry, and a game is a game. We challenge our fellow alumni to embrace the Hokies Respect we are noted for. We must rise above such acts that do not represent our university.

We love the fanfare. We love the competition. While we are Hokies on the courts and gridiron, we are all Virginians in life. Let’s show the same respect that we have been shown.

Tom Tillar, Vice President for Alumni Relations, Va. Tech
Larry Hincker, Associate Vice President for University Relations, Va. Tech


Transported by Photo

I was delighted to see the backdrop for the table of contents in the Winter 2007 issue. The photo of a snow-covered East Range instantly transported me back to Charlottesville and the winter of 1984-85, when I was fortunate enough to reside at 36 East Range. I remember similar snows and the sense of stillness and serenity they brought. East Range was always a tranquil island for me, away from the ordinary hustle and bustle of Central Grounds. When a silencing blanket of snow was added, what a wondrous sanctuary it would become. Thank you for highlighting this oft-overlooked part of the University.

Scott Glass (Law ’85)
Windermere, Fla.


Questionable Cartooning

I concur that Grant Woolard’s cartoon depicting nine gaunt black men clad in loincloths as an “Ethiopian Food Fight” was tasteless, inappropriate and deserving of his termination. However, I am perplexed why his prior cartoons depicting Jesus crucified on a mathematical x-y axis, or the Virgin Mary with a venereal disease, were apparently deemed sufficiently within the bounds of artistic good taste to allow him to remain employed as a Cavalier Daily co-editor. Where were the protestors? Where was the institutional indignation?

One can only conclude that UVA and the Cavalier Daily editorial staff do not perceive grossly tasteless, anti-Christian cartoons in the same light as racially insensitive ones. I beg to differ. Religious intolerance should be as consistently condemned as racial prejudice.

Thomas M. Neale (Col ’74)
Baltimore, Md.


Jefferson and Hemings

Regarding the “Anatomy of a Mystery” article by Maura Singleton (Fall 2007), as a genealogical historian, I found it reasonably fair and balanced. However, I do take serious issue with the comments made by history professor Peter Onuf.

In August 1996, I attended a UVA seminar at Trinity College in Oxford, England. The brouhaha about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was beginning to brew again. Onuf was one of the lecturers. When he glibly stated that Mr. Jefferson was guilty of miscegenation with Sally Hemings and had sired several children by her, I objected and asked for his sources of proof. He vacillated and was very unconvincing.

My family in Albemarle County knew Mr. Jefferson. They knew him as a quintessential Virginia gentleman, as a man of truth, principles, discipline, honor and integrity. Those personal attributes are recorded in history and are affirmed by my ancestors. The relationship they had geographically, politically, militarily, socially and legally with the “Father of the University of Virginia” endured for over 50 years.

I am a 1951 graduate of UVA. and also a member of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society (www.tjheritage.org). The thought that future UVA students would be subjected to such personal bias is a very frightening one indeed.

Edward A. Leake Jr. (Col ’51)
Richmond, Va.

 

I read with amusement [White McKenzie “Ken”] Wallenborn’s comment at the end of his letter to the editor in the Winter 2007 edition of the magazine: “Alumni can believe that the father of the University of Virginia was the morally proper gentleman that we had always thought.” Thank you, Dr. Wallenborn, for reconciling in my mind the idea that one can keep slaves and be a morally proper gentleman.

Douglas B. Smith (Col ’87, Law ’06)
Richmond, Va.

 

I am disappointed that you did not include my short letter on the Jefferson-Hemings matter in the Winter 2007 issue, not because I composed it, but because it presents a perspective than I’ve never seen before. My suggestion is that, if Jefferson did indeed father the Hemings children, then what need forgiveness are the law and the social structure which precluded him from marrying Sally. Such perspective eliminates tawdriness from consideration. It suggests that a man loved a woman enough to have her repeatedly bear him children, and before Jefferson’s own Nature’s God, that was not a wrong or a bad thing, to have hands wrung over it in modern times.

Gilbert S. Bahn
Moorpark, Calif.


Wind Farm Feedback

I should like for Mark Schofer (Col ’75) to know that there are homes on both properties involved in the wind farm project in Highland County. My wife and I do spend time in Highland County, and our family in Richmond frequently spends time in Highland County.

My brother-in-law and his wife spend at least half of their time in Highland County. So you see, the towers are in our backyards.

James C. Seabury Jr. (Col ’56)
Fort Myers Beach, Fla.


In Praise of Professors

It is with regret that I read of the recent passing of Professor John Graham. As an entering student in 1960, I had the good fortune to be in Professor Graham’s first-year English class, and to a significant degree this exposure shaped the remainder of my learning experience. I have frequently described Professor Graham as the best teacher I ever had.

Assuaging my sorrow is your “Retrospect” article about Professor Ray Bice. He was my first psychology professor, and I believe he was one of the first professors to address my first-year entering class, the purpose of that being to calm us down and let us know that we could survive if we put our mind to it. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bice again in 1990 when he was my daughter’s psychology professor.

It was my honor to graduate from the University and to study under the tutelage of individuals such as John Graham and Ray Bice.

Richard J. Bennett (Col ’64)
Warren, N.J.

 

I truly enjoyed reading the Fall 2007 edition of the magazine, as I was blessed to have both Lou Bloomfield and Karin Bonding as professors. Dr. Bloomfield was one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking individuals I have ever encountered. Yet for all his knowledge, he also spent much time after class with the students laughing and educating us further. In Dr. Bonding’s class, we were taught to create a portfolio for a class assignment. Yet her enthusiasm led me to closely scrutinize my portfolio and the companies in which I was hypothetically invested. At the conclusion of the semester, I took some of my summer earnings and invested in those companies and still include them in my portfolio today. As a current professor, you hope to educate and reach all of your students. But getting your students to act is even greater. And Drs. Bloomfield and Bonding are truly two of Virginia’s finest.

Robert Zullo (Col ’97)
Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University, Sport Administration Program


Traditions

I thoroughly enjoyed your feature on student traditions in the Fall 2007 issue. I was dismayed, however, when I saw the issue’s cover. On it, you chose to juxtapose a black-and-white photograph taken at a dull moment during a 1967 football game (every student has a sour look on his face) with a color photo depicting an exciting moment during a 2005 game, filled with cheering fans. This sends the unambiguous message that traditions like wearing ties and sundresses to our games are outmoded, or old and boring.

I am saddened to see anyone attached to the University promoting such a stance, because UVA’s unique traditions are an asset we should cherish. Indeed, traditions are what make UVA special. The vast majority of colleges and universities, especially those below the elite tier, lack any real and living traditions, ones that students still follow. The fact that our undergraduates persist in the observance of tradition gives UVA character. When we don orange T-shirts to people the “sea of orange,” it doesn’t make us unique, it makes us copycats. At UVA, then, let’s cherish our traditions as something that sets us apart and gives us a sense of history and a sense of fun.

Matt McDole (Col ’05)
Honolulu, Hawaii


Bias Agreement

I have to agree with J. Randolph Segar Jr. [Winter 2007] about the unpersuasiveness of your counterarguments to letters you’ve received contending that the magazine has a liberal bias. Even if I found your reasoning more compelling, one could never expect a publisher or editor to admit bias, as that determination can be made only by the readers. Apparently a steady stream of the ones who submit letters perceive a liberal bias. I suspect you’d counter that the vast majority of letters show general satisfaction with the magazine, but again a contingent doesn’t see it that way. Therefore, it seems to me that the way to effectively counter the arguments of the letter writers who perceive liberal bias is by also publishing letters from all the readers who complain of the magazine’s conservative bias.

Presumably you have plenty of those if the publication is sufficiently balanced in the eyes of your letter-writing readership.

Roger J. Carroll (Col ’83)
Nashville, Tenn.

 

I cannot help but reply to the letter in the Winter 2007 edition of the magazine by Robert John Jeffrey (Educ ’75). His smearing of President Bush must have been taken directly from the propagandist Michael Moore or Moveon.org. The “facts” just do not add up.

Such slander carried on by the left wing makes me wonder why any responsible person would ever want to run for public office. And there are plenty of irresponsible ones seeking office now.

I can’t help but remember the late President Harry Truman. He received a great deal of criticism for various steps he took during his administration. However, time has pretty well cleared his name.

I was involved in WWII and remember before we became involved that Hitler said in essence that he was not worried about the USA getting involved because Americans are so taken with their comfort and luxurious living that they would never give it up to fight for a principle. I wonder if our left-wingers are now bringing him up to date.

Charles R. Jacobs (Col ’45)
Brookhaven, Miss.


Compensation Concerns

I have been a very active and involved graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce and the University. Last year, I was made aware of the obscene compensation paid to [football coach] Al Groh (more than $1.7 million) relative to that of President John Casteen (about $500,000).

Groh’s performance has been good, not great, even before the Gator Bowl loss. However, most importantly for the University, one has to ask two questions: “How important is it to have a great football program?” and “Can the University ever have a great football program without compromising the academic requirements of its athletes?” (Great being defined as ranked consistently in the top 25 and qualifying for a BCS Bowl on more than an infrequent occasion.)

To the latter question, from past history (the last 50 years), I respond NO. I am not privy to the profitability of the football program, but my guess is that it did not bring more than $10 million to the bottom line prior to Groh’s compensation. If profitability is not the reason for his compensation, will it enhance attracting quality students to the University? My conclusion is just the opposite: The University’s academic excellence enables our athletic program to attract top athletes who wish to obtain a superior education.

Now let’s look at President Casteen’s performance. Prior to his presidency, he was dean of admission and had the leadership to convince the University to “go coed.” His rationale: “We have doubled the pool of applicants without materially increasing the admissions.” This one act materially enhanced the University’s ability to attract the best and brightest students.

As president, Casteen recognized that the University must become more self-sufficient, and he undertook a $1 billion capital campaign—a financial goal that was materially exceeded through the Development Office and his leadership. Now we are in the middle of a $3 billion capital campaign, and if history repeats itself, this goal will be met or exceeded.

Under Casteen’s leadership, the various schools have attracted the best and brightest educators, and their facilities have been updated to provide our students with top teaching and educational tools.

It is my strong feeling (echoed by many other fellow alumni) that excessive compensation paid for “good” performance (such as exhibited by Al Groh) sends the wrong message to many members of the University community (educators, administration, students and alumni). The University should be known for paying its CEO a top salary rather than paying its football coach, or any other athletic coach, such compensation. The University is recognized for its quality of education, not its excellence on the athletic field.

Robert Understein (Com ’63)
Henderson, Nev.


Barge Support

Our team appreciates your coverage of the Learning Barge project in the Fall 2007 issue. We would like to thank our project supporters, especially the Virginia Environmental Endowment, whose early and critical funding allowed this ambitious idea to become a reality. Other major supporters include the Environmental Protection Agency and the Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation. The project has continued to garner major national awards and just received the ACSA Collaborative Design Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Please visit our Web site at www.arch.virginia.edu/learningbarge for details and updates.

Phoebe Crisman
Associate Professor, UVA School of Architecture