Doug Laditka, the Director of Facilities and Physical Plant Operations, addressed some important statistics that all students should be aware of in last week’s issue of the Voice. According to Mr. Laditka, “In the past three years the college has invested $6 million to improve the energy efficiency in all of the major campus buildings, including a new energy building automation system,” and in our first full year of operation “we saved 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity and cut the power plant’s coal consumption by 4,385 tons.” Obviously this is all absolutely fantastic news. However, it brings up a very important issue that pertains to everyone within the college community.
I am certainly ecstatic about these savings, but why wasn’t anyone made previously aware of them? I am very surprised there wasn’t even a press release. It seems strange that we would invest such a large sum of money into sustainability and not even say a word. It’s really no surprise that a student accused the College of doing “a really awful job of energy saving and using energy efficiently,” the claim to which Laditka replied. For the most part, students are unaware of energy monitors and therefore have no idea when we spike in usage or go down as a result of sustainable investments. It seems we only truly boast or discuss our sustainability when it takes shape in physically visible ways, such as the Scot Center which, not to mention, is only 0.6 percent of heating and cooling energy usage. To continue to make such great strides as a campus in sustainability, it is essential that we discuss more openly not only the downsides, but also the upsides of our energy efficiency.
There are likely many students who have little to no interest in our energy usage and the inner bureaucratic workings of our facilities. However, just given the frequency of articles over the few weeks pertaining specifically to sustainability, it is obvious a large portion of our campus is concerned. Mr. Laditka stated that the savings from our investments in renewable energy are going back into “the core academic mission of the college,” and I would pose the question of whether or not it is a worthy investment to transfer the savings into something that’s already doing fine when many of our buildings are aging and desperately need to be renovated and retrofitted. How much longer are we going to circumvent Bissman on tours and only bring prospective students into Babcock? Considering the $30 million it cost to build the Scot Center and the amount we saved in just one year, there is so much that could be done to retrofit many of our buildings and further our savings even more. How can we continue to expand our campus to buildings like the Gault Schoolhouse when we are leaving so many in the dust on the North End? Plans to renovate some of the more outdated buildings may already be in discussion, but because of the lack of dialogue, the student body has no way of knowing.
As the school makes pivotal decisions on a variety of issues, it is vitally important we work to have a greater dialogue between all members of the community in regards to all issues. Without dialogue, students and faculty will just perpetually be miscommunicating. Establishing a greater dialogue and discourse with students and non-academic faculty members is the only way we can truly strengthen our college community. This is the first of many important steps we need to take to actually address not only issues of sustainability, but also issues that affect all members of the community.