Yale Attempts to Produce Environmentally Conscience Graduates

by Margaret Loncki

Administrators at Yale University strongly believe that something needs to be done about imminent threats it faces as a result of climate change. Rachelle Dejong, a research associate at the National Organization of scholars, describes the importance of behavioral manipulation and social psychology in changing the behavior of college students. Yale administrators believe that appealing to one’s moral side is not enough to change student’s behavior in the long run. Instead, students must want to engage in sustainable behavior rather than being forced into it. When forced to make these changes, resulting behavior appears to be temporary rather than the long lasting changes that Yale hopes to produce.

Years prior, Yale attempted to become more green by creating trayless dining halls. The theory behind this mandatory change made total environmental sense. By not using large trays, water needed to clean them would be saved and students would be less likely to fill their tray with more food that they would be able to consume. This change however, did not go over as well with students as administrators had hoped. Unlike a reaction to a similar decision at the Claremont Colleges, Yale students revolted against the change and trays were soon brought back to the dining halls. Administrators admit that the most likely reason this change didn’t stick is because it was a forced change rather than a voluntary one, something that the students would want to be a part of. The dining director at Yale now plans to “seduce students with plant-based foods” rather than forcing changes upon university students. Administrators believe that if they can infuse sustainable practices into students everyday lives, these changes will influence their environmental decisions for the better long after they graduate and will push them towards “solar paneled houses and vegan only restaurants.” We shall see.

Dejong, Rachelle., 2014, An ivy league nudge-ucation. Commentary 134(4), 43-46.


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