The Cool Schools of 2014 list in this month’s issue of Sierra magazine ranks the institutions of higher learning with the greenest policies and practices. There are 173 schools on the list. Not one of them is a historically black college or university (HBCU). Princeton does the Sierra Club one better, literally: Of the 332 institutions in its Green Colleges guide, only the historically black Cheney University of Pennsylvania made the cut.
There are over 100 HBCUs in this country currently serving over 300,000 mostly African-American students. The fact that some 99 percent of those schools aren’t on the greenest schools lists probably reinforces the idea among environmental employers that there are few black people qualified or available for green jobs. We know that this notion is incorrect — there are plenty of qualified people of color out there, they’re just sorely overlooked. So is it fair to render historically black universities invisible in discussions about the greening of academia?
There are a few explanations for why HBCUs went unmentioned. They may not have responded to inquiries or enlisted in the surveys that Sierra and Princeton used to create their lists. Or perhaps none truly were green enough to qualify. Historically black colleges are also historically financially struggling colleges, which means many don’t have the funds to trick out their campuses with all the cool green gadgetry of better endowed universities.
These explanations, and a few others, can be found in the HBCU Green report, produced in part by the nonprofit Building Green Initiative. That report, the second version of its kind, dispels the notion that black colleges aren’t green enough and elucidates why they may not live up to the list makers’ criteria.
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