In an effort to save the University money during the economic recession and to make the campus more sustainable, Chris Goy ’09 and Benjamin Firke ’12, both members of the WSA, are introducing a contest called the Wesleyan 3Green Challenge. The contest will award $5,000 in prize money to students who submit the winning proposals.

“The people who use this campus the most and see, day in and day out, how the facilities are actually used, are the students,” said Goy, who is the Student Budget Committee Treasurer. “And yet, the students are the last in line to be consulted on ways in which the University can save money with energy.”

Goy, worried by the University’s diminishing endowment, decided that the best way to incorporate the student body in the process of reducing expenses was to offer a significant amount of prize money for ideas that were simple and cost-effective to implement.
“Up until very recently, when someone said the word ‘green’ they were usually referring to money,” said Firke, a member of the Student Budget Committee and the Organization of External Affairs committee who also contributes to the Argus’ website. “Now, when people say ‘green,’ they are referring to sustainability, to preserving the environment, the earth we live on. What Chris and I are trying to do is to say that when you talk about ‘green’ it means both money and helping the planet, and that the two are not at odds with each other.”

Goy and Firke believe that implementing student-generated ideas for reducing energy costs will prevent the Administration from having to find other, less appealing ways to make budget cuts.

“The only way that we see students being able to play an active role in stopping the hardest decisions from being made, i.e. professors being fired, God forbid, has to do with the way we live our lives on this campus,” Goy said. “If the entire Wesleyan community is being negatively affected by both the climate crisis and the economic crisis, then why aren’t students acting like members of the community?”
Goy hopes that the $3,000 first prize and the $2,000 second prize awards will motivate students to brainstorm and research sustainable ideas. Groups of three or more students will be able to submit their proposals online, after which the ideas will be judged by a panel comprised of administrators and faculty. The panel, which will most likely include Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson, Director of Environmental Studies Barry Chernoff, Director of Sustainability Bill Nelligan, Vice President for Finance John Meerts, Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe, and Associate Director of Utilities Management Peter Staye, will not only select the two prize winners but will also choose the top 25 ideas and present them to Michael Roth.

“I know based on my interactions with the other members of the Sustainability Committee that they will take everything seriously, and I also know that Michael Roth is really committed to greening this campus,” Chernoff said. “I hope that some really good ideas will come into the Sustainability Committee and that we would consider those projects for implementation. It’s all a matter of budget and what we get the biggest bang for the buck for.”

The Sustainability Committee, which Chernoff, Nelligan, Meerts, Staye, and Topshe all serve on, is an already-existing group that involves students, staff, and faculty in moving the University in the direction of environmental sustainability through various projects.

Staye pointed out that the University has already implemented many energy-saving projects, such as installing solar panels, replacing lighting and pumps, and upgrading electrical systems.

“Wesleyan students are really bright and come up with great things,” he said. “Where I struggle is I know what the University’s doing now and the University’s doing a lot. So, it’s going to have to be a really great thing to make a big improvement, but if anybody can do it, it would be the Wesleyan students.”

Goy thinks that the winning idea, which he hopes will save the University hundreds of thousands of dollars, will most likely be simple and straightforward.

“The point is for these ideas to be so completely obvious that it would take somebody who wanted to inflict harm upon the University to not implement them immediately,” he said.

Currently, the winning ideas are slated to be selected by March 6, when students leave campus for Spring Break. However, Chernoff hopes this deadline will be extended.

“I think, when there’s so much at stake, getting projects that are put together quickly shouldn’t be what we’re looking for,” said Chernoff. “My expectation would be that the idea would be really well-thought-out, really well-researched, and well-documented. My recommendation would be that we put off the judging until the week after Spring Break.”

Students who are interested in forming a group and submitting an idea should keep their eyes open for posters and announcements explaining the rules of the contest. Those who want to work with Goy and Firke in implementing other environmental projects this semester are encouraged to contact them.

“We’re only a few people,” said Goy. “The ethos of this idea is that it is the collective genius of Wesleyan students that’s going to get us through.”

  • Anonymous

    How do we submit a proposal? …..just look for posters around campus sometime in the next few weeks?

  • bfirke

    There will be a website up soon. The deadline will be the end of April. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Thanks for your interest!