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E-M:/ Dow's MSU: A Green Campus?

Enviro-Mich message from mckennab@umd.umich.edu

MSU has been cited as one of the best green campuses by a national group.

Despite the important efforts of good environmentalists on MSU's campus, I pause to reflect.

How well are faculty doing? I offer an anthropological perspective.

In the Green Olympics, there are gold, silver and green medals. Here's how it breaks down.

It's a given that green faculty work on gold campuses. . .but is there a silver
lining? The gold is "Mr. Moneybags" - the military-industrial-academic complex. The green is, too often, a coopted movement of energy audits and adopt a river programs which leave Eisenhower's dark forces alone.

David Orr says that trying to change universities is like walking north on a moving train going south.

Most university faculty are more concerned with typical academic career matters
(grant writing, academic publishing, teaching, merit raises, traveling, or protecting their own subspecialty) than they are with radicalizing their own universities along "green" lines. Their own backyards crumble -- i.e. Dow Chemical's Midland pollution -- while their journal entries grow.

Yes, there are a few hundred or so faculty (of thousands and thousands) who push hard to transform their campuses towards policies and practices that radically challenge non-sustainable capitalist social relations. But, as a group, faculty on campus are generally co-opted by a sustainability movement that asks too little of them in terms of challenging or overthrowing the reigning "culture, resources and power" arrangements of their universities.

Some may work with administrators and colleagues on energy audits,
biofuel alternatives, Earth Day celebrations, pesticide reduction, green chemistry, adopt a river programs and other initiatives. But though important, these substitute for a powerful overarching movement to "green the campus" along democratic lines. Over in the cloistered seminar room radical theories about the ecology get full exposition but generally do not when one is sitting across from scientists, engineers and patent officers of the campus. "Why! , you're certainly not against patents, are you?" an MSU faculty member was once mockingly asked by one such administrator at a public meeting.

"Lansing works, Keep GM," substitutes for "Lansing's ill, study the mills."

The penultimate "green campus" is a form of eco-socialism that is organized against neoliberal practices. It is pre-eminently concerned with the fact that colleges and universities are for sale to the highest bidders and that the non-sustainability military is growing and growing on campus.

A green campus is also a red campus, a festival of critical pedagogy in all venues. . . .where there are an abundance of union drives, student loan forgiveness programs for citizen action, civic engagement efforts that critically study and resist corporate power (GM 101, Dow 101), a democratically elected university administration (by students, faculty and workers), constant demonstrations against the corporate state, daily ant-war civil disobedience actions, the take-over of on campus PBS stations like WKAR by democratic representation, a clear public effort to transform the company towns that exist outside of university walls into a vibrant new county, led by social equality first.

Instead, the corporate knowledge factory model advances by leaps and bounds while the "red and expert" model wanes. A good many faculty do extraordinary work in teaching and research ing about conservation, biodiversity, sustainability, commodification, privatization, interdisciplinarity, capitalist warmaking and so on, but too many of these same faculty at missing in action when it comes to challenging corporations like Dow Chemical, General Motors, the Business college, the Pentagon, university media and their Boards of Trustees in jettisoning neoliberal authoritarian movements on their own campuses.

A green campus is also a democratic campus.

A democratic campus is also revolutionary.


Brian McKenna

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