Macalester President Brian Rosenberg on Taking a Stand

If your institution’s president is considering signing the ACUPCC, but is unsure if it’s an appropriate stance to take on behalf of the institution, below is a great line of reasoning from Macalester College’s president Brian Rosenberg.  The following is an excerpt from a 2009 essay titled “What Am I Doing Here” that ran in Inside Higher Ed:

“I consider it my civic duty to vote and my right as an individual to contribute from time to time to the campaigns of particular candidates, but I am typically reluctant to make public endorsements. Similarly I do not believe that I should be staking out through my public remarks Macalester’s position on health care reform or cap and trade or military intervention in Afghanistan. These are however precisely the issues that all of you should be studying, arguing about, and taking action on through your lives as students, scholars, and global citizens. My job is to ensure that Macalester provides the environment within which you can do these things, rather than to delineate in each instance the proper “Macalester” stance.

On the other hand, I have spoken out both individually and on behalf of Macalester on issues including the importance of diversity to higher education and the necessity for all of us to practice and model environmental responsibility. For me, these issues are inseparable from and directly relevant to our work as a college and therefore ones that I can and should address. Some might contend that the latter topic is one that falls outside the standards I have defined; my response is that the reality of climate change has passed beyond the point of reasonable debate and has become an essential component of responsible citizenship, whose encouragement, at least at Macalester, lies at the core of our mission.

So we have taken such public actions as signing an amicus brief in the University of Michigan affirmative action case and becoming early signers of the College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. I would be prepared to contend that not to take stands on issues of this kind — stands whose particular form will rightly vary from institution to institution — would actually impair our ability to carry out our educational work and therefore that they are issues to which I should speak, both individually and as a representative of Macalester.”

Since President Rosenberg signed the ACUPCC, taking a stand on behalf of the institution, Macalester has reduced its annual greenhouse gas emissions by over 10,000 metric tons, and saved an estimated $250,000-$500,000.  See Macalester’s progress report for more details.