GUEST COMMENTARY Campuswide support needed in ‘green’ efforts

As a result of the student effort, environmental sustainability has made huge advances in the last four years. While I would never claim to be at the center of the environmental movement on campus, as the Associated Students of Linfield College president, a lot of my time is focused on enabling other students to explore things they’re passionate about. So I was somewhat aggravated by the portrayal of the Linfield sustainability movement in the article, “Planning for a ‘green’ scene” (TLR, Dec. 3).

This column shouldn’t be taken to mean that I oppose the Climate Action Plan. I don’t at all. I think it’s great that Linfield has stepped up to publicly declare its support for sustainability through the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and that it’s working to make that commitment a reality through the Climate Action Plan.

Students are concerned about sustainability, and students have put a great deal of resources and effort into it, but the same commitment hasn’t come from faculty or the administration. Certainly there are individuals who are working hard to support students, but we have yet to see the wider institutional support I would hope for.

Even in the formation of Linfield’s core themes (the principles that will guide the college in the coming years), while there was a consistent student voice for the inclusion of a community engagement and sustainability theme, that voice was dismissed.

The Community Garden came about because a number of students with an interest in sustainable agriculture put in the effort to start a club through ASLC. The idea for compost bins came from students who wanted to do something about so much food going to waste in the residence halls. The eco-roof was started during Alternative Spring Break 2010 and finished as part of a workshop series sponsored by ASLC and the Office of Community Engagement and Service.

These projects were implemented and, through the Student Sustainability fund, paid for by students. The fund was created through a fee increase imposed by students through a campuswide vote. None of these projects were paid for out of the college’s budget nor were any of them implemented because of the Climate Action Plan.

There are also incorrect perceptions about the students involved in sustainability perpetuated in the article. John Hall is indirectly quoted as saying that only 5 percent of students are active in sustainability. Given that Hall works in capital planning (about as disconnected from students as a person can get on a college campus), it doesn’t surprise me that he would misjudge the student interest in sustainability.

Perhaps it is accurate to say that 5 percent of students are passionately advocating for sustainability, but the number of students interested and involved in environmental issues is quite a bit higher. In the last four years, Greenfield has been one of the five largest clubs on campus. On the academic side, environmental studies is among the fastest growing majors, and Colloquium has focused on issues of sustainability for the last two years.

While environmental issues aren’t important to the entire campus, sustainability is a concern of an increasingly larger (and much more than 5 percent) portion of students.

When will the college put its money (and actions) where its mouth is rather than pushing the burden onto students?

Colin Jones/ASLC president

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