Chancellor: University getting greener, needs to be less dependent on federal dollars

Vanderbilt must continue to develop new revenue streams to ensure its financial health in the face of federal budget deficits that are likely to impact government grants and awards, said Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos at Fall Faculty Assembly.

“We must, to the greatest extent possible, control our own destiny,” Zeppos said Aug. 25 at the Student Life Center. “While acknowledging the challenging external environment, we should continue to set high expectations for our performance.”

Zeppos said that careful endowment management, cultivation of Vanderbilt’s tech transfer division and deliberate spending are all part of the equation.

“We need to be tirelessly focused on who we are and what we do,” he said.

Zeppos spent the last part of the program answering questions submitted by the faculty.

One query was about the coal-burning power plant and its impact on the environment and Vanderbilt’s image.

Burning coal actually reduces Vanderbilt greenhouse emissions, Zeppos said, because it is more efficient to transmit electricity a short distance on campus than to transmit it from hundreds of miles away.

There’s also the complication of Vanderbilt being a Level 1 Trauma Medical Center and site of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, he explained. Because of these concerns, Vanderbilt cannot afford to be completely dependent on any outside energy source.

“This requires that we be powered by a reliable, uninterruptable energy supply 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year, especially in the event of a widespread emergency or loss of power in the Nashville community,” he said.

Zeppos said Vanderbilt had reduced greenhouse gas emissions 7.8 percent from 2008 to 2009. He said the university had improved and expanded its recycling program in recent years, created the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management and hired a campus energy engineer and a recycling coordinator. Also Vanderbilt is a large if not the largest purchaser of green power in the area, he said.

Earlier in the program Zeppos and David Weintraub, chair of the Faculty Senate, handed out awards to faculty including the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research to David Lipsey and the Thomas Jefferson Award “for distinguished service to Vanderbilt through extraordinary contributions as a member of the faculty in the councils and government of the University” to Kassian Kovalcheck.

Zeppos said that in a time of economic uncertainty, “Vanderbilt’s vital signs were stronger than ever.”