Category Archives: Social Sustainability

On the 2019 NCAA women’s bracket & living wage policies

Today I’m taking a look at the 2019 NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament bracket (yesterday I provided some decidedly non-expert analysis of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament). I’m methodically completing my women’s brackets, trying to decide whether strength-of-schedule, conferences, geographical or academic loyalties, mascots, or school colors are sufficient to overrule seedings and produce upsets. As with this year’s men’s tournament, I can’t pick an all-Jesuit women’s final four this year because only three Jesuit institutions have teams in the tournament – Gonzaga (5), Marquette (5), and Fordham (14) – although all three of them could (in theory) make it to the final four…

…as with the men’s tournament yesterday, I refer back to this project and last year’s (2018) list of 32 American higher education institutions (HEIs) with (either all or part of) a living wage policy publicly available on their institution’s website – that about 1% of all four year HEIs (see my AASHE webinar here).

Out of the 64 teams making the 2019 women’s tournament, five institutions made last year’s list – just under 8 percent of the field. Those institutions are 2 seed Stanford (2018 Living Wage Policy score 85), 10 seed Auburn University (45), 6 seed UCLA (70), 8 seed University of California (70), and 15 seed UC Davis (70).

Three of those teams are in the upper half of their regional bracket (i.e., 8 seed or higher), but three of them are in the same first and second round grouping playing at Stanford, which means at best three of these five teams can make it to the “sweet 16.”

Notably, Auburn was the only institution to field teams in both the men’s and women’s tournaments and have (all or part of) a living wage policy.

I’m interested to see if additional tournament teams have instituted living wage policies since last year. I’m about to begin soliciting participation from chief human resource officers (CHROs) in our 2019 data collection effort to answer that question. As before, I’ll be asking if living wage policies and/or practices are in effect; I’ll be asking institutions with policies to provide them, and I’ll be inviting CHROs at colleges with living wage practices to be interviewed about their institution’s practices.

Reflecting on AASHE (with shout-outs!)

Presenting three talks at two very different conferences in a span of six days is a lot of input, particularly when the audiences have such different lenses on our common causes: improving our higher education institutions. This post is about the first conference (AASHE); in a separate post I’ll write about CUPA-HR.

At the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE, in Pittsburgh (Oct 3),  I talked with with an interesting mix of students, faculty, and staff in a variety of different roles. The conference theme was the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and there was heightened sense of urgency to take action on climate change was palpable; this past Monday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its landmark report Global Warming of 1.5º C is sobering about what needs to be done.

This was my third consecutive year presenting at this conference; for folks unfamiliar with AASHE it is very broad “tent” with a primary emphasis toward environmental sustainability. The expo hall includes everything from electric cars/carts to customized recycling containers to bike share and campus scooter programs to carbon-footprint tracking and academic programs in sustainability from many different perspectives. There’s a whole lot of green building going on out there!

The sizable area of poster sessions at AASHE included everything from thermostat control initiatives (Wesleyan U) to “blender bikes” (Ohio U) to making “bag boards” from compressed plastic bags (UNC-Wilmington). Social sustainability – such as the focus of my project – is a bit of a niche within AASHE. If audience size from year to year is any indication, it is an area of growing interest – and concern – in American higher education. I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our ongoing conversation.

It was a lot of fun to explore my material from different perspectives in each of my two AASHE talks. My introductory session on living wage policies attracted a number of students, and an intermediate level session for people familiar with the living wage concept, where were able to talk in greater detail about what I’ve learned so far through this project and compare notes with practitioners. And some folks came for both (you know who you are – thank you!).

Between the two sessions, I was able to chat with a public policy graduate student from just down the street here in Philadelphia, sustainability coordinators from coast to coast (and all points in between), and adjunct and tenure track faculty in public and private institutions.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with AASHE, and I’ll keep you posted here whenever I have significant news. Next year’s AASHE conference is in Spokane WA, October 27-30, 2019. I hope to see you there.