|Submission Date||May 29, 2015|
University of Virginia
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy
Senior Land Use Planner
Office of the Architect
Does the institution advocate for national, state/provincial, or local public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability?:
A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:
The University of Virginia has engaged with local partners in multiple efforts to advance sustainability in the local community. Efforts to date include:
2011-13 - The Sustainable Communities Planning Grant was a three‐year federally funded process to advance implementation of sustainability through regional coordination in the Charlottesville/Albemarle metropolitan area. The University of Virginia served as the project’s consulting participant, serving in an advisory role under the auspices of the Planning and Coordination Council (PACC).
The City of Charlottesville and UVa are currently in pursuit of the Georgetown Energy Prize and have been shortlisted with 50 other small cities in the United States. The Georgetown University Energy Prize challenges towns, cities, and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Currently, the shortlisted communities are leading the way by bringing together their local governments, residents, utilities, and to demonstrate success in reducing energy consumption over a two-year period.
The University has used several recent stormwater management projects to create wildlife habitat, including stream restoration and stream daylighting to create aquatic wildlife habitat. Wildlife-edible plants and other native plant species are utilized, along with minimally-invasive landscaping practices, to create areas of habitat adjacent to riparian features. Several stream restorations project have implemented strategies to reduce erosion and recreate riffles and pools to create aquatic habitat. Some of the stormwater mitigation projects are joint projects with the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
The University has a representative on both the City and County Planning Commissions, which have both been updating their Comprehensive Plans to improve and integrate sustainable practices into the communities planning practices.
UVa won a planning grant in 2010 and an implementation grant in 2012 from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Transportation Enhancement Grant program to develop a bikeshare program on the campus. The bikeshare program - UBike - was implemented in January of 2015 and is now up and running. UVa is one of a few select universities in the United States to have a bikeshare program.
The University of Virginia this month will complete a major bond issuance and related restructuring of its debt designed to support operations and key elements of U.Va.’s strategic plan, including the new Affordable Excellence program adopted by the Board of Visitors in March. Included in the $291.6 million of refunding bonds is the University’s first issuance of “green bonds,” which support environmentally sustainable projects and help to create innovative strategies to meet the goals of U.Va.’s Sustainability Plan. Socially conscious investors bought $97 million in U.Va.’s initial offering of green bonds.
It’s believed to be the largest issue of “green bonds” by a public university to date.
In advance of the financing, all three major credit rating agencies – Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s – reaffirmed the University’s coveted “triple-A” long-term debt rating, a key to U.Va.’s ability to save millions in interest by securing the most favorable terms available to institutions with the top ratings. With this reaffirmation, the University continues to be just one of two public universities in the country to receive “triple-A” ratings from all three major credit rating agencies.
A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years:
On a state level, the University is also committed to supporting campus sustainability and advancing sustainability as it relates to environment, economy and equity. Some examples include:
• Through the University’s AccessUVA financial aid program, we are committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated need of students admitted to the University. This important program allows us to operate with a “need-blind” admission policy that bolsters our efforts to attract the best students to the University while achieving socioeconomic diversity in the student population. The University of Virginia is one of only two public universities in the nation to meet full need for both in-state and out-of-state students
• The University’s recently adopted Affordable Excellence model that ensures that our students will benefit from the University’s residential culture, the advancement of knowledge and service, superior educational experiences, and a new generation of distinguished faculty. At its essence, Affordable Excellence is the University’s commitment that a U.Va. education will remain among the best while guaranteeing that Virginia families will be offered minimum levels of need-based student indebtedness.
• UVa is committed to be a leader in supplier diversity by developing sustainable relationships with qualified, reliable, small, women, and minority owned businesses. We actively seek out the best firms which will enable the University of Virginia to deliver high-quality education, research, public service and healthcare. We offer and participate in multiple diversity training events throughout the year including, but not limited to SWaMFEST, MBE Day, conferences, open houses, etc. to advance and enhance supplier diversity at the University.
• The University also closely monitors legislation, executive orders, and other regulations that are applicable to the University. We engage multiple stakeholders across the University to assess and analyze the impact of legislation, and our Office of State Governmental Relations engages in advocacy efforts on a myriad of issues that will have an impact on the University, either positively or negatively. Issues specific to sustainability include, but are not limited to, energy conservation and reduction initiatives, LEED certification requirements, and storm water management, and affect all state, and sometimes local, agencies and institutions. Given the breadth of these issues, we often work collaboratively with other institutions of higher education and other state agencies as appropriate in our advocacy efforts.
• A new commission at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs will examine new ways to fund higher education. The National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education is tasked with searching for new financial models that can sustain colleges and universities while making cost of attendance affordable for all students. The commission also will look at the funding outlook for public institutions before releasing a final report with policy recommendations. The 14-member commission includes two former governors — Mike Castle of Delaware and Bob Graham of Florida — business executives, state legislators, the chancellor of the University of Kansas and the president of Michigan State University. Formal policy recommendations will be released in 2016.
A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):
The University does not make political contributions/donations (e.g., PACCs, candidates for office, etc.). Per an opinion from the former Attorney General, the state constitution prohibits the use of state funds for private charitable organizations.
The website URL where information about the institution’s advocacy efforts is available:
The State Governmental Relations’ website, http://www.virginia.edu/governmentalrelations/, serves as a resource for information relating to state and legislative activities and provides details about the office and staff. Reports posted to the website include legislative reports, analyses of the state budget, and summaries of applicable executive orders. The website also includes information about the legislative process, a list of the University’s local legislators, and links to websites related to state relations activities.