Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: Recognizing Chancellor Subbaswamy’s campus sustainability efforts

An open letter to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy from Ezra Small, Campus Sustainability Manager
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2023)

Chancellor Subbaswamy, if we do not have a chance to shake hands again before you depart campus, I want to say to you that I will miss you very much. I will miss your poise as a leader, your empathy and your compassionate listening skills. I will miss your uncanny ability to brighten the room with your smile and make people feel comfortable in your presence.

My time as campus sustainability manager began only a year before you became chancellor. At your campus staff listening session as a candidate in the Campus Center, I asked you if you would champion sustainability, not just support it. Your answer, to nobody’s surprise now, made people laugh. You said coming from Kentucky, where they love coal energy, it was refreshing to see everything that we were already doing here at UMass, and that you would be open to continuing the important work.

Looking back at the last decade-plus, I am so proud of the work and accomplishments that you not only supported but also so passionately championed, thus embracing sustainability as one of your legacies here. While there’s always more work to be done to create a more sustainable campus, let us take a moment to visit a few highlights from your tenure.

In 2012, I was in your office with the students who proposed to you and Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises, to sign the Real Food Challenge. You trusted them that this incredibly lofty goal of 20 percent real food procurement by 2020 (we were only at 12 percent when you signed) was achievable, and with your support we exceeded that goal a few years ago. Using our purchasing power as the largest internally operated campus dining program in the country to support the local and regional food system will have a lasting effect on not only the quality of our dining program but also to the resiliency of our local economy.

In 2013, with the support of your Chancellor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC), you funded a request to establish and seed a new Sustainability, Innovation & Engagement Fund, known as SIEF. After two seed fund installments of $50,000 since 2019, this fund has engaged the entire campus community in greening our campus by funding over thirty projects including important programs like our New2U Sustainable Move-Out Collection and Move-In Tag Sale, the Paperbark Magazine and the Mass Aggie Seed Library.

A year later in 2014, you and Vice Chancellor Andrew Mangels empowered me to extend the sustainability ADQUAD external review scope from just my little physical plant office to campus-wide sustainability operations and engagement. Our reviewers told you that if we wanted to continue to be recognized nationally as a leader in sustainability, we needed to address the various gaps in our sustainability operations, such as campus renewable energy. Look at what we have accomplished since then! We now have 7 megawatts of on-campus solar over five parking lots and five rooftops, as well as two battery systems now leading the way in behind-the-meter solar generation with the largest campus solar installations in New England.

In late 2017, as you were having crucial meetings with our student leadership about acting on climate change, my colleagues and I presented to you and your extended leadership committee the findings of our Sustainability Integration Plan (known as SIP). We told you there were six high-level strategic sustainability priorities for the campus that needed cross-campus support and collaboration. You showed great enthusiasm for this plan and adamantly told us to focus on two of these out of the gate: carbon mitigation and campus resiliency.

You funded the work of the task forces with the consultants, and in 2022 on Earth Day, this led to your incredibly ambitious announcement of the UMass Carbon Zero campaign and plan to decarbonize our campus energy system and achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.

These are just a few of the ways you have championed sustainability during your tenure as chancellor. Thank you for our partnership and leadership over the years. I am happy to hear you are going to remain involved in the UMass system administration. Congratulations on all your accomplishments, and cheers to you and your next chapter in your life and career. Go UMass!

Ezra Small, Campus Sustainability Manager

Ezra Small can be reached at [email protected].

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