The new full-time staff position of Sustainability Coordinator is being established at the University in fall 2012 as a result of a proposal by the Coalition of Campus Sustainability Leaders last summer. The proposal originated from a desire to improve the efficacy of sustainability efforts on campus and beyond, and was approved by the administration in November.
“We were trying to identify the shortcomings and weaknesses of our sustainability community and how to best address them,” said Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) President Zachary Malter ’13. “What we really needed was a staff person who was committed to sustainability full time, who could provide continuity, expertise, an ally within the administrative structure, and could really allow gains from one year to be sustained.”
Expected to be an integral part of the sustainability community, the new hire is expected to aid students in organizing projects, ensure continuity of projects from year to year, work with students on grant-writing, develop outside partnerships related to sustainability, advise student groups such as the Environmental Organizers Network (EON), and sit on the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES). The Coordinator will also serve as a liaison between administrators and students.
Green Fund Committee Chair Evan Weber ’13 noted a rich environment for activism on campus, but said the students are stifled by the lack of a faculty member devoted to their interests.
“There’s a lot of really good energy out there but it’s often that students, because they don’t have enough time or because they can’t work through the bureaucracy of the University, aren’t able to get their projects realized,” he said.
Malter believes that this position is crucial to a university that prides itself on sustainability. According to Malter, Other schools such as Williams College, Colgate College, Oberlin College, Dickinson College, Tufts University, Middlebury College, and Bates College already have equivalent positions.
“They can ensure that Wesleyan is at the forefront of sustainability and is really preserving its image as a sustainable school because I really do think that that’s one of the things that makes us special,” Malter said. “But to ensure that momentum continues I think this position is critical.”
The Coalition met with President Roth and Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts to discuss possible funding for the fellowship. They decided that the University will spend $25,000 each year for the Coordinator’s position, a sum that will be matched by a joint contribution of $20,000 from the Green Fund and $5,000 from the WSA.
“We got an offer from John Meerts that they would fund a three-year fellowship position or pilot position but they would fund it in half, and the rest of the funding had to come from the students in some way, so that’s when the Green Fund got involved,” Weber said.
The money from the Green Fund is provided through an optional payment of fifteen dollars per semester, to which most students contribute, according to Weber. The money generated by the Coordinator position through grant writing and cost saving projects will first refund the Green Fund. Once the Green Fund has been refunded, the University’s contribution will be repaid.
The administration has committed to funding the position for three years, and has already set aside money for the fall of 2012 so that the position will be filled this fall. As is typical for such hires, the administration will reevaluate the position after those three years.
“We fund them on a temporary basis for three years, and we evaluate every year how well it actually worked out, and if after three years it worked out great, then we fund the position permanently,” Meerts said.
The Green Fund has only officially signed on for one year of funding. Due to the changing composition of the committee, the funding must be reevaluated every year.
“We can’t really commit future Green Fund committees or future student bodies to our decisions; we don’t feel like that’s fair,” Weber said.
Because of financial limitations, the students are looking to hire a recent graduate, preferably one from the University. According to Malter, the possibility remains open, especially if the position can fund itself, that an applicant with a higher degree and more experience may be hired in the future. However he believes that a recent University alumnus would offer unique qualifications for this position, and he encourages seniors and recent graduates to apply.
“I really do think there are a lot of merits to having somebody who understands Wesleyan,” Malter said. “I think this community is a very unique place that I think would benefit from somebody who gets it.”
The Green Fund, WSA representatives, and administrative officials will be involved in the hiring process. Once hired, the Coordinator will work closely with Physical Plant and report directly to Meerts, in an effort to facilitate the interaction with the administration.
“I want this person to have independent access to me so that he or she can talk to me directly about the things that they want to do and not necessarily have to go up through the chain of command of some entity on campus,” Meerts said.
Malter, Meerts, and Weber all expressed excitement for the establishment of the new position.
“There hasn’t been anything like this at Wesleyan before,” Malter said. “I think this is part of a shift toward greater sustainability within the institution and the world.”