Discourse / Editorials / February 22, 2012

Thoughts from the Embers: Sustainability Coordinator a priority?

Over the past year, the college has seen very few sustainability projects that use the Green Fee funds. Knox might soon see a new coordinator that will drive more initiatives from students, administrators, faculty and from his or herself, but the question that the Knox student body needs to ask first is should this post be at the top of our list of priorities at Knox?

The Sustainability Coordinator position will possibly cost the college around $70,000 a year and initially come mainly from Green Fee and SMURF 2 funds. Since these funds are from students and for students, this job should benefit students and needs to involve more students’ input. Some sustainability projects do directly increase the welfare of students, but there are many where students don’t notice a gain.

It has been stated that the economic savings created by the coordinator will offset the cost of the position. While this is a realistic goal to be at a few years down the road after the position is set up, it is likely that there will be many years where the school will need to fund this upfront, and if it keeps coming out of student funds, there should be a provision that the funds be returned to SMURF 2 and the Green Fee.

Colleges around the country have begun to create similar posts to this in order to better direct sustainability projects and promote their institution as a green school. While it is important to “keep up with the Joneses,” it is important to only do it when it does not harm the school’s integrity. At the current state of the college, this push to keep up with other schools will only hurt us in the long run and will likely see little gain in attracting more students to the college. The college will see more short and long term benefits with a focus on other issues.

With tight budgets and increasing tuition, new jobs should only happen out of necessity. There are numerous areas around campus that are more of a necessity than a new Sustainability Coordinator. This includes additional staff in Health Services Center, Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development and more professors in understaffed departments.

The Health Services Center has been understaffed for years and is vital to the student body. With the increase of mental instability among the freshman class and an already full schedule for the Counseling Services staff, it is only becoming more important that additional staff is found for the department. The student body has voiced their opinion in a need for increased staff in the Center, but little has been done to alleviate the problems.

As the economy remains in rough condition, the Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development is undoubtedly understaffed for the important role it plays for students trying to exit Knox on the right foot. The Center is flooded at times with meetings and the size of the staff prevents a full coverage of students and makes it difficult for the staff to provide proper attention to each student.

Numerous academic departments around campus could greatly benefit from these funds as well. Many classes are regularly overfilled and more academic offerings would come from more staff members in more undersized departments. Academic department understaffing affects the most important part of student life. Educational excellence should be higher on our priorities list than working at being the next green school.

While making the college green is a good thing and should be strived for, the initiative should be taken by the students to bring green projects to campus. This will undoubtedly save money and would make sure the projects truly benefit students.

The new position has been supported by many, from some students all the way up to the President of the College. The majority of this support from students comes from members of the Environmental Studies Department and members of the Sustainability Task Force and likely sees less support from the student body as a whole. Since the funding for this position will originally come from student funds, the position should include more student opinion before this post is created. So far, only a few have been given the opportunity to voice their opinion.

Overall, it is clear that the position is far from a necessity for the college and the student body. Years down the road, the student body will benefit more from staff additions in other departments and eventually we may be able to keep up with the Joneses and make the campus green, but we do not currently have the other gaps around campus properly filled.

TKS Staff

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