A Green University in Conservative Country

Slippery Rock University (SRU) sits north of Pittsburgh, toward Lake Erie, in a conservative northwest Pennsylvania district where President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, Slippery Rock has been consistently named one of the top 100 green colleges and universities in the country, was an early signer of the US College and University Presidents Climate Commitment under their former long-time President Bob Smith, and has a climate action plan to reach zero carbon emissions by 2037. SRU is in the cozy college town of Slippery Rock and proudly sports a thriving sustainability program.

SRU has also been given the Conservation Award of the local Bartramian Audubon Society (started by three SRU students in 1983) for having started four new Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries since 2005. These include 266 acres with wetlands and old growth forest, with 151 acres directly on campus. The Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research sits within one sanctuary, a 71-acre site complete with hiking trails, organic gardens, composters, chicken coops, and more.

Rachel Carson Council President, Dr. Bob Musil, was invited to the SRU campus for Earth Week and hosted by Dr. Becky Thomas of the Department of Parks and Resource Management, along with the SRU President’s Commission on Sustainability. While on campus, Musil toured the Macoskey Center with the Director of Sustainability and Special Assistant to the President, Paul Scanlon, and led an outdoor writing workshop for combined English Literature and Natural History classes. Dr. Musil also taught classes on the economics of sustainability and on the principles of sustainability, where he offered advice and strategy to students who are carrying out an environmental campaign to persuade students and the SRU food service provider, AVI, to eliminate plastic bags.

Musil’s visit to Slippery Rock culminated with a campus-wide lecture, “A Reverence for Life: The Environmental Ethic of Rachel Carson and Difficult Dialogues for Today,” held in SRU’s historic Ski Lodge — preserved and preventing from being turned into a parking lot by a previous generation of students. The audience and a panel of combined faculty and students responded enthusiastically to Dr. Musil’s speech and discussed how they could apply it to current sustainability issues at SRU. Musil also autographed copies of his two current books, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters and Washington in Spring. With significant numbers of students, faculty, and staff signing up for the Rachel Carson Council Campus Network (RCCN), Slippery Rock University became the forty-first college to join the RCCN.