- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Commencement ceremonies around this country are featuring something new this spring: Green ribbons on the gowns of graduating seniors. Sporting such ribbons is occurring at more than 70 campuses where students have pledged to bring environmental activism to their future workplaces.
The pledge states: "I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work."
Described on the Web site www.manchester.edu, the pledge brings back echoes of 1960s-style activism for a generation that never took part in anti-Vietnam War activities. Instead of taking over the college presidents office, the pledge suggests employing environmental radicalism at ones work site.
One of its suggestions is for students to "go to work for a regulatory agency and pledge to push the limits on protecting the environment regardless of the institutional pressures."
Or "get a normal job and become the office vigilante on styrofoam use, office recycling, disposal of toner cartridges from the copier and other mundane matters others prefer to overlook."
Or, "work for a corporation that has a negative environmental impact and find ways to become an internal change agent. This can be a rewarding experience or a battering one, depending on the specific companys culture and capacity to learn, and on your own personality."
Neil Wollman, the professor at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., who is heading the green ribbon campaign, says participating colleges range from Brandeis and Stanford campuses to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
"At some schools, the pledge is formalized," he says. "At other schools, it is not. At the University of Kansas, their school of social work is doing it. At some of the religious schools, such as the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne (Ind.) and Madonna University in Detroit, it is part of the commencement."
At Harvard, he added, signers of the pledge must attend at least one seminar on the environment.
Students at the University of Maryland were not able to talk the school into officially allowing the ribbons in time for spring commencement, reports senior Michelle Maslov, an American history major.
Nevertheless, 10 students have signed the pledge and plan to wear their ribbons during ceremonies tomorrow, despite a school regulation forbidding all but officially sanctioned ribbons. One hundred students have signed a petition asking the campus to allow green ribbons during future graduation ceremonies.
"Some people are really into it," says Miss Maslov, who plans to work for a nonprofit organization helping the homeless and the poor. "For those who signed the pledge, the environment is always in the back of their minds."
Thirty persons at the University of Virginia signed the pledge, reports organizer Lyle Solla-Yates, 19, a sophomore urban planning major. He staged a small ceremony Saturday for pledge signers, at which the ribbons were passed out for main graduation ceremonies on Sunday.
"Everyone I have talked to has been extremely positive about it," he said. "Social consciousness and environmental awareness has made a comeback recently."
Many of the signees at UVa. are planning to enter the Peace Corps.
The green ribbon movement started in the 1980s at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., and grew to 25-30 schools before dying out. Manchester College took over the effort in the fall of 1996. The pledge was read aloud Sunday as part of the commencement ceremony, where about half the 200 graduates had signed on.
"Usually, it is people of a more liberal political persuasion who sign, but not always," Mr. Wollman says. "At Stanford, the right-to-life people are joining with the right-to-choose people on this one, which is how it should be."
Ned Tozun, the Stanford senior organizing the pledge on his campus, says about 100 students have signed it. Graduation at the California campus is June 11.
"I feel that the pledge is especially relevant at Stanford," he said, "since many of us will end up becoming influential individuals with the potential to make a significant impact, whether it be positive or negative."
Mr. Tozun heads Students for Informed Career Decisions, which collects profiles of various corporations wishing to recruit Stanford grads. SICD lists 25 companies at www.stanford.edu/group/SICD/ that detail their corporate policies on the environment.
"We see this as a campus event in the best way," Mr. Wollman says. "Its something people can be activists on. Weve had people turn down jobs if they dont fit with their moral convictions. We did a five-year survey of graduates and of the 20 we got back, a fair amount said they were using the pledge one way or another."


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