I was born and grew up in Charlottesville while my father, Edgar Shannon, was president of the University from 1959 until 1974. Those were important years when the University went on record as being a leader in education and also a leader regarding the issues of the day: civil rights, women's rights, the war in Vietnam and Watergate. In May 1970, my father came within one vote of being fired by the Board of Visitors for the positions he was taking. Leadership requires courage.
The issues for this generation are greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection. These crucial issues are harder than those my father faced because they require not just courage, but building a sense of urgency. I am proud that my daughter, Virginia Shannon, is working to do just that on the Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan City, Indiana and that her counterparts at the Sierra Student Coalition's Beyond Coal Campaign are doing the same at the University.
The University burns between 25,000 and 30,000 pounds of coal annually to provide energy for heating and cooling. Last year, the University claimed that burning coal instead of natural gas "saved" $3.2 million in fuel costs. But what about the costs of nearly twice as many greenhouse gas emissions, potential health hazards - a few hundred feet from the University Hospital - and coal dependence that were not included?
At their meeting this Thursday, Nov. 10, I call on President Sullivan and the Board of Visitors to make a stronger commitment both to reducing emissions and to investing in alternative energy strategies. I also invite community members to attend the Beyond Coal press conference on the Lawn at 2:30 p.m. before the Board meeting.
The Board's July sustainability resolution set a goal of a 25 percent emissions reduction by 2025, but this is not nearly enough. Think about how absurd it would have been for my father to say that he was committed to enrolling African-American and women students but would need to wait ten years to do so.
The time for bold, systemic change and innovative leadership is truly now.
Eleanor Shannon \nProf. COMM 1985-90 \nDaughter of Fourth University President Edgar Shannon