Last Thursday, Oct. 23, the Student Development Committee of the Board of Trustees held a meeting with several student organizations on campus. Alissa Weinman ’15 and Sylvia Krebs ’17 attended as spokespersons for Greenhouse, the sustainability group on campus. Weinman read a statement to the trustees emphasizing the necessity of having a sustainability coordinator at the College in order to stay competitive among its cohort and enact substantive change to the College’s environmental impact.
Through the end of the 2013-14 school year, the College employed Sb Loder as its sustainability coordinator, a position created in 2012 to address Loder’s concerns on campus. However, the fate of the position was uncertain with Loder’s departure in 2014, as the Voice reported in its May 2, 2014 issue. It has yet to be filled, despite the desire of student groups on campus, chief among them Greenhouse.
When Loder announced her impending departure last year and the continuation of the position was called into question, at least five students, a graduate of the College and a few faculty members wrote letters to the new Vice President of Finance, Deanna McCormick, advocating for the position to stay open.
“As far as I know, no one received a response,” said Weinman.
Acknowledging that students could have followed through more, Weinman said that instead, Greenhouse turned its attention to new initiatives such as installing hand dryers in the College’s bathrooms.
Matthew Mariola, professor of environmental studies, is supporting Greenhouse’s efforts to fill the vacant position, stating that “just as the many moving parts in APEX, or in the library system or in a classroom require a coordinator, so do the many moving parts of greening a campus.”
Mariola has been discussing several possibilities to make up for Loder’s absence with Greenhouse; one is to hire two students for 10 hours a week each, in which case they would be monetarily compensated. Another possibility is to offer the position to a student as an internship, in which case they would receive course credit in environmental studies.
According to Mariola, these ideas came about in a meeting of the Campus Sustainability Committee. However, Mariola says that the Committee has run up against the problem of finding an interested student who has both 10 hours a week to devote “just to stay in the loop” and a great degree of flexibility in their schedule in order to attend the various group and committee meetings. Mariola recognized that “it’s hard to find [a student] with both a strong interest in sustainability and these qualifications.”
“There were concerns on the part of students that, a) they would not have  hours a week to devote to the position, and, b) this kind of job demands a longer work week,” Weinman said. “The position is one [that] students, staff and faculty cannot manage due to our commitments as students and employees of the College.”
Furthermore, Greenhouse feels that it is crucial to have an official position, rather than a student, in the role of sustainability coordinator in order to give the position the heft and legitimacy it needs to be effective.
In her time as sustainability coordinator, Loder compiled Wooster’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report, moved the College away from coal power towards more environmentally friendly alternatives, and pushed for the Sustainability Program House, which is currently modifying Reed House to determine what changes could be made to make other program houses more sustainable.
However, Greenhouse contends that despite this progress, more improvements need to be made.
“The problem with sustainability, in my opinion, is you can never do enough,” said Weinman.
Greenhouse is concerned about Wooster falling behind comparable colleges such as Kenyon College, Allegheny College and Oberlin College.
“Oberlin, along with 683 other universities have signed the Presidential Climate Commitment, and Allegheny runs on wind energy,” said Weinman.
However, her sense was that the Trustees “were content with the changes we have already instated on campus and weren’t too keen on discussing and figuring out ways we can do more so we can measure up to these other schools.”