ASLC Senate stands up for students and a future beyond coal

The Associated Students of Linfield College stood up for students and built on the foundation of sustainability that has given Linfield its green reputation May 17. ASLC overwhelmingly
voted to endorse the Beyond Coal resolution and support a transition away from Oregon’s largest source of pollution by the year 2014.

The Beyond Coal resolution, versions of which have been endorsed by student governments at seven Oregon campuses in addition to Linfield, calls for decision-makers to replace the state’s Boardman Coal Plant with cleaner energy sources by 2014. Each year, this one plant emits 5 million tons of carbon dioxide, 15,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides and 200 pounds of mercury.

Boardman, operated and partly owned by Portland General Electric, mainly serves utility customers in the Portland area; yet all Oregon residents suffer from the effects of its pollution. The Beyond Coal resolution calls for a transition away from burning coal at Boardman within a time frame shown by respected energy consultants to be economically responsible and environmentally necessary.

Passing the Beyond Coal resolution wasn’t just the right thing to do: It was a chance for ASLC to stand up for the voices of Linfield students. The Senate’s first opportunity to pass this resolution came on April 19, when it was presented to ASLC by Greenfield. At that Senate meeting, the resolution failed to pass, stimulating a grassroots campus campaign to show that Linfield students are ready to move beyond coal — fuel.

By reconsidering the resolution and passing it by a hefty margin May 17, ASLC senators showed they are serious about taking input directly from students.

After the resolution failed to pass the first time, the initial step for Linfield’s Beyond Coal campaign was to get Senate to reconsider its move. We argued that new information had emerged to support our position on Boardman, and that the Senate’s first vote was influenced by the personal ties of one senator to the coal plant’s utility owner, Portland General Electric.

Meanwhile, a grassroots movement to pass the resolution took shape.

During the busiest time of the year, Greenfield members gathered more than 150 signatures from students who had learned enough to ask ASLC to pass the Beyond Coal resolution. As word spread, it soon became apparent this wasn’t just an issue for tree-hugging environmentalists. Students from a wide spectrum of backgrounds spoke up by signing the petition and contacting their senators.

One student who is studying abroad took time to e-mail Senate from an Internet café in Mexico City. The message was loud and clear: Students support the transition to clean energy.

By the May 17 Senate meeting, the Senate again took up the Beyond Coal resolution. Several senators spoke up to say why this resolution was important enough to merit a second hearing. Sophomore Elections Committee Chair Bradley Keli’inoi pointed out the Senate’s responsibility to take the voice of the student body on this issue that so many feel strongly about. In a final vote, the resolution passed by an overwhelming margin.

We think passage of the Beyond Coal resolution is not just a victory for environmental responsibility but a demonstration of ASLC’s willingness to listen carefully to student voices. This resolution passed because the Senate took time to consider what Linfield students really want and acted accordingly.

We congratulate the Senate on sticking up for student voices and everyone who participated in this important campaign for a job well done.

Tyler Gerlach, Guest Columnist

Guest column

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