Don Morris' office and the sustainable development minor program are based in STEPS. The minor will no longer be offered due to lack of funding, Morris said. (Anna Simoneau/B&W Staff)

BREAKING: Sustainable development minor program to be eliminated

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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.”

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8 Comments

  1. 5th year who is fed up on

    This behavior from the administration is becoming common on this campus, it is terribly sad to see. I have been involved heavily in activities and leadership positions here and I have noticed the trend in this behavior grow. I love Lehigh with all my heart and when I graduate I will continue to come back and support the students and devoted faculty. I will however make my frustration with the apathetic behavior of leadership at this school clear. This needs to change. The current students I know, have begun to resent this school and its policies. I would not expect heavy donations to come this generation of alumn. Get it to together Lehigh, wake up.

  2. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    I have no clue as to “university politics” but it seems as though a bright and prosperous future was not forecast for this minor. “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.”; it sounds good. To me, and obviously to some others in the Lehigh Administration it belongs in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and may be of more value than some other existing course of study but not enough for CAS support. Courses of study come and go; I’m sure the Mining Engineering students of bygone days were not happy when that discipline disappeared.

    As baby boomers and those who read newspapers can attest, the Health business is big business. It’s not hard to see the lure of the new College of Health at Lehigh. As Lehigh attempts to continue to be financially stable and educationally relevant tough decisions need to be made. It’s a nasty job but someone has to do it.

    “…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.” True , no one wants to advertise bad news but a program needs support to survive. Businesses working in the”triple bottom line” areas are to busy chasing capital to bankroll such a minor; government aid and monster universities are called for. Personally I would like to know the reasoning behind the decision but exposing the details of the process might make the loss of the minor seem more painful for some. Nobody is a winner if the truth is told.

    Professor Morris should be proud of the professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication he has shown. “Morris said. “Lehigh is on the wrong side of history on this issue.” I don’t think Lehigh’s decision was that of a referendum on progress but more of an economic decision.

    • Putting economics over the well-being of the planet and people is what caused this climate and humanitarian crisis in the first place. Yeah, it might’ve been a “good economic decision” for Lehigh, but is that all that matters for a university? Being a financially viable business? Shouldn’t a university be encouraging students to help create a sustainable future? It’s pretty clear to me what’s important to Lehigh, and that’s money. The administration has been demonstrating that for the past few years now, and students are noticing.

      I took an Intro to Sustainable Development class my first semester of my freshman year, and even now as a junior, it’s been the best class I’ve ever taken at Lehigh. It sucks other students won’t be able to do the same.

      • Robert F Davenport Jr on

        I can be empathetic to how you feel about the environment and the Sustainable Development Program but I don’t think you have searched for answers to your questions in my comment. Lehigh is a relatively small private university, that fact has consequences, consider them.

        Historically economics, lets start with the Industrial Revolution, has caused environmental damage but unless you want to be a hunter gatherer, tends to provide the ability to have better lives for all. It seems as though human greed slows progress to that better life. Answers to the people problems is not in Lehigh’s area of expertise.

        ” Shouldn’t a university be encouraging students to help create a sustainable future?” I would say: produces graduates who are committed to promoting a improved society for all. Your Intro to Sustainable Development class may be a class that should be taken by all. I never had a course like that but respect for the environment and those in it can be gained by other means; for me it was family and religion.

        I believe the best method for environmental progress is not to be confrontational but to create win-win situations. With power, confrontation can work but even so win-win is probably better in the long run.

  3. Harry McNally Jr ‘60 on

    I think Global Warming is biggest problem our world has until we learn to reverse it!
    A primer course for all students should be required!
    Harry McNally Jr ‘60

  4. Amy Charles '89 on

    Really a shame. Lehigh seems to be having serious trouble reckoning with how the world and young people’s priorities have changed — the sexual assault/harassment suits, the ongoing inability to deal with diversity, the endless struggles with fraternities, now this.

    For those who are interested in a sustainability degree:

    The University of Iowa actually has some pretty terrific people leading the sustainability major here: https://clas.uiowa.edu/geography/ .

    They’re some I’d encourage you to take a look, and also to look at the Civil and Environmental Engineering program: https://cee.engineering.uiowa.edu/ .

    I’ve worked with people from both programs and they not only really get it, they’re passionate about it. If you have questions, I’d suggest contacting Silvia Secchi (Geographical and Sustainability Studies) and Dave Cwiertny (CEE; also a AAAS fellow who spent a year in DC learning some about the policy side). Most important: their students are smart and seem really happy with the programs. There’s also an Environmental Sciences program that carries multiple degrees plus a Sustainability certificate; ask Andrew Forbes about that one.

    https://clas.uiowa.edu/envsci/

    There are of course plenty of other universities with sustainability programs, because obviously the need is profound. I think it’s where some of the most interesting and interdisciplinary work at universities is being done. So look around, and if it’s what you want, don’t keep throwing your $70K at Lehigh — go do the thing you want to do.

  5. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    New post on The Brown and White 17 Nov 2019: A new story: Bob Flowers looks for changes in the College of Arts and Sciences as dean
    by Anna Caraviello.

    New Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS),” Robert Flowers; “With his knowledge about larger state universities, Flowers said he understands the desire to offer a diversity of programs to students, especially where there is interest and engagement.

    He said Lehigh, given its size, cannot do everything well. Flowers said he thinks the university needs to focus its efforts more.”

    Concerning the sustainable development minor program post: “Members of the Provost’s Office and members of the College of Arts and Sciences dean staff were not available to comment.” I think this new article qualifies as a CAS comment. It verifies some of what I had thought about the decision.

    It might be interesting to write editorials concerning the administration’s actions; especially since they usually don’t seem to make many timely statements. Their actions seem to be relatively consistent even if disparaged by some students.

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