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Transcript of Dr. James Ramsey’s remarks, Global Warming Teach-in

by Gibbs,Neil W last modified Jun 22, 2009 11:18 AM

Rauch Planetarium, Feb. 5, 2009

Barbara Burns, chairman, UofL Sustainability Council:

It is my great honor to be able to introduce President Ramsey, the “greenest” president I know. He is going to talk to us about UofL and connect sustainability and climate change to UofL. President Ramsey?

Dr. James Ramsey:

Thank you, Barbara, and let me thank you all for being here.

This is an exciting day and the UofL is glad to participate on this national teaching day on global warming and to be part of the webcast that is coming up. Barbara told me I had five minutes, but she sent me about two hours worth of material that I was supposed to talk about. So I’m really going to talk fast, but what I would like to do is put this into a context of where this fits in; and strategically and from a policy perspective why this is important to the University of Louisville. So I’m going to go really quick.

In 1997, the people of Kentucky enacted the Postsecondary Education Reform Act. It was a long bill — 200 pages — but a really simple bill in some respects, because the whole focus of that bill was that we in higher education have a public agenda. And that public agenda is our responsibility through our teaching and our research and our service and outreach to improve economic opportunity and quality of life for the people of our community and our state.

That’s what we’re about day in and day out. In 1998, our Board of Trustees, who fully embraced higher education reform in Kentucky, and the Louisville community came up with a 10-year plan called the Challenge for Excellence. It was a plan that contained strategies, tactics and metrics of performance to measure how we at the UofL would achieve that public agenda and the mandate given to us to be a premier metropolitan research university. The Challenge for Excellence was a 10-year plan from 1998 to 2008.

In 2008, our Board of Trustees came back together and said: “We’ve met the challenge, now is time to go on and develop the plan that will take us to 2020. Under Dr. (Shirley) Willinghanz’s leadership we went through a new planning process. It was a campus-wide effort and it was a community-wide effort.

We knew so much more in 2008 than we knew in 1998, when the original Challenge for Excellence was adopted by this university. The world has changed. We have more information. There are new issues. And so, in our new plan — the 2020 plan that will guide us day in and day out as we move forward – there is no question that environment stewardship, environmental sustainability is a major focus, a major initiative, a major drive of the University of Louisville.

In fact, at the University of Louisville, when we talk about accountability, and people in Frankfort talk about “is higher education as accountable as it should be?” we normally talk about financial accountability. But when we talk about accountability at the University of Louisville, we talk about not only financial accountability, which is critically important, but also about academic accountability, commitment to quality and excellence, and also environmental accountability. This is an important part of what we’re about at the University of Louisville. It is a commitment, it is a focus, it is a drive of ours going forward.

We’ve got a lot of great things happening and if I start going through the long list, I’ll leave out a lot of things. But the Sustainability Council is something. There are so many things going on we thought we needed to create an umbrella organization to help us stay focused on all of our different initiatives. With Jefferson County Public Schools, Metro Government and the University of Louisville coming together through Partnership for a Green City, we can make a difference. But more important than that, if our three organizations set the tone and set the example, then others will follow.

So we’re very proud of the Partnership for a Green City and we’re very proud of the work (Vice President for Business Affairs) Larry Owsley has been doing for many, many years and is being highlighted with the biosafety lab being built on our Shelby Campus and will be LEED certified. And we’ve made a commitment that new construction and renovation and major projects at the University of Louisville will follow the principles of LEED certification.

We’re very proud of our energy audit program that we’ve undertaken and announced last summer at the same time we announced our Sustainability Council. We’re working with Siemens Corporation and at the time, they indicated to us that they could guarantee us through some changes in how we do things and our buildings and so forth, they could guarantee us $33 million. They’ve come back now and said they really think the figure is more than that, that we really ought to be able to realize about $50 million in savings.

Barbara’s right, we’re one of the institutions that signed the President’s Climate Commitment. It says that we would do something about emissions and would try to achieve neutrality going forward over time in terms of carbon emissions.

This was highlighted in Frankfort on Monday afternoon when Governor Steve Beshear held a press conference to make two very important announcements. Number one, the state of Kentucky was moving ahead on the Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship, an entity created in 2007 by the Kentucky General Assembly. The General Assembly knew that that center needed to be at the University of Louisville but for political reasons it also needed to be attached to state government and the new energy cabinet that Governor Beshear created. But when Governor Beshear and his secretary of energy, Lynn Peters, found out the kinds of things we’re doing here, they came to the conclusion that that center needed to be at the University of Louisville. And so last Monday, a memorandum of agreement was signed moving that center to the University of Louisville.

The second announcement made that day was that two wonderful people, Hank and Becky Conn — people from right here in Louisville, graduates of Male High School, Hank has two degrees from our Speed School, an MBA from our business school — committed over $20 million to this initiative because they know how important it is to our community and state. This is important; it is something we’re committed to. It’s not lip service, it’s in our strategic plan and that we will be what drives us.

You know, the economic environment we’re operating in is tough right now. But our strategic plan and our commitment to what we value as an institution will drive us.

As we move forward, I am very partial to the colors red and black, but every now and then I can wear green and be very green. My tie is not as bright green as David’s, so I have to work on my wardrobe. But thank you very much, thank you for being here and being part of this day.

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