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Students stressing climate goals, as U of I winds down presidential search

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Hari Osofsky edited
Hari Osofsky, credit: The University of Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The University of Iowa publicly announced its first finalist for president Monday, 18 days before Bruce Harreld's replacement is officially named.

Hari Osofsky, current dean of the law school and school of international affairs at Penn State, is one of four finalists for the job. Before working at Penn State, Osofsky was a professor at the University of Minnesota.

Osofsky toured the campus Monday, interviewed with several department heads and held an hour-long public forum for faculty, students and community members.

Watch Hari Osofsky's full public forum above.

One of the students at the forum was senior, and Iowa City native, Eva Sileo.

"I did find her personally to be intelligent and accomplished," Sileo said. As a biology major, she was at the forum mostly to hear about sustainability goals.

"They don't have a carbon neutrality goal at all," Sileo said.

As part of the university's 2030 sustainability goals, the U of I is trying to decrease its carbon footprint by 50% compared to 2010. While it doesn't have a carbon neutral goal, the City of Iowa City is trying to carbon neutral by 2050.

Sileo is also worried about the university's dependence on coal. The University of Iowa Power plant on West Burlington Street produced 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from coal burning in 2018. Data for the last two years was not available on the university's website.

The university has promised to stop burning coal by 2025 but has not said it will shift to 100% renewable energy. The U of I did reach a 2020 goal by now getting 40% of its power from renewable sources but still doesn't use solar or hydraulic power.

"I'd really like to see the university consider doing something with their energy infrastructure that would actually modernize it; that includes like new construction of things like solar," Sileo said.

The university says it has decreased its use of coal by 75% since 2010.

Sileo hopes the presidential search committee is asking these finalists tough questions about climate goals behind closed doors. The question she submitted during Monday's forum did not get read. The university says this is likely because people also submitted questions online and there were many they couldn't get to.

The university will announce the other three finalists over the next two weeks and make a final decision on April 30.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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