The sustainable development minor program is in its final semester since the provost decided not to support the program any longer, according to Don Morris, an associate professor and the program’s director.
Now, students who are more than four credits away from meeting the program’s 15-credit requirement are “out of luck,” Morris said. Students within four credits from completion of the program will be offered an independent study to finish the minor.
The decision comes after the program steadily began to lose funding from various offices on campus. The program, which was started five years ago, initially received financial support from the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s Office and the Office of International Affairs. But International Affairs withheld support a few years ago, Morris said, and the college of engineering followed. Last year, the Provost’s Office pulled funding, leaving the College of Arts and Sciences alone to support the program — something the college couldn’t do.
“It’s actually embarrassing,” Morris said. “I’m embarrassed and frustrated by Lehigh’s position on this issue.”
The sustainable development minor’s website says the program is on “hiatus,” but no public announcement has been made. Morris said he wouldn’t expect one to be made since the decision “doesn’t look good” for the university. The website says the program is no longer accepting new students.
Lehigh’s sustainable development program is geared for students from any discipline who interested in helping to solve “the triple bottom line challenge of their generation: economic well-being, environmental protection, and social inclusion,” according to the program’s website.
Susan Cheng, ‘21, said she went into Morris’ office recently looking to explore the possibility of participating in the minor program. She said she chose Lehigh for its commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness, but is now disappointed to see the university’s direction with these decisions.
“They’re slowly leaving from the environmentally-friendly path. To think that we’re turning away from it is just not ideal, and is very different from what I came to Lehigh for,” Cheng said. “They’re just going the opposite direction, so I really hope they would turn back around.”
Cheng is also the president of Lehigh’s Green Action club.
Members of the Provost’s Office and members of the College of Arts and Sciences dean staff were not available to comment.
Morris said he took over the sustainable development minor program two years ago. Now, he’ll be going back to teach full-time in the earth and environmental sciences department. He said he often represents Lehigh at the United Nations, and he said it will be frustrating to tell individuals Lehigh has done away with its sustainable development program, while “people all over the country and all over the world are putting resources into sustainable development.”
“The environment is at stake as is the quality of human life. What kind of world do we want to be living in?” Morris said. “Lehigh is on the wrong side of history on this issue.”