Dedicated group fights for eco-friendly campus housing

Jordan Jacobo

Talk of creating an environmentally friendly themed residence hall at Linfield is, for now, in      limbo.

Nothing is official, but a group of motivated students is pressing the school to evaluate possibilities and student interest in “green” living.

There’s nothing happening next year, Jeff Mackay, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life, said.

A few dozen students brought up the prospect of a residence hall or apartment complex to focus on sustainability and conservation, but ideas are in preliminary stages, Mackay said.

There has been only one discussion between Mackay and the group. No further talks are scheduled in the immediate future.

“There are a lot of other folks we need to get involved in that process, including members of Residence Life, the area directors, the dean of students and other administrators,” he said.

Sophomores Duncan Reid and Ryan Abbot, the student representatives of the Advisory Committee on Environment and Sustainability, are part of the effort to get the school to buy into the merits of sustainability-centered housing.

“We had a brainstorming session (with 20 students) and talked about a few possibilities,” Reid said. “Most of them will initially be cultural because we’re not going to have money or authority to do renovations. We’ll be setting new standards for energy use and water consumption.”

Reid said short-term goals may include purchas-        ing energy-efficient appliances, such as low flow shower heads, and having                              students look at their monthly statements of their utilities usage.

Long-term goals are as lofty as installing solar panels. McMinnville Water and Light would match up to $25,000 in solar initiative, Reid said.

Abbot and Reid said   talks are mostly hypothetical at this point, and any concrete ideas are in the early stages of development.

This caution was matched by Mackay, who said he hasn’t yet involved any faculty members in the discussion.

Mackay said he is always concerned about themed housing because he thinks it could have the power to marginalize the rest of the residence halls.

“If there are students that want a more green community, wouldn’t it be better to have them living throughout Linfield rather than in one location?” he said.

Abbot said the integration of other students on campus would be a major focus of a green-living     community.

“We’d be making sure they knew what we were doing and getting them involved,” he said.

Reid said he wouldn’t want students to be burdened by the idea of sustainable living, but instead be free to take advantage of the opportunity.

Mackay said another nine to 10 months of talks will need to occur before the school can make a final   decision.

In the last six years there have been other attempts to create themed housing, he said. A language-themed hall didn’t go forward because of a lack of student interest. A religiously affiliated hall was stopped out of concern it would separate students and give false impressions of a lack of spirituality in other halls.

Student interest is  always a concern in themed-hall attempts, Mackay said, but it would not be a definitive factor if enough students proved they were on board.

“The group is currently working to redraft some thoughts they had around the proposal,” Mackay said. “Then it will be time to talk to the area directors, the dean of students and the faculty to take this to a broader audience and get some feedback.”

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