New Sustainability Committee to advocate environmental awareness on campus: Elections currently taking place to fill positions on the committee

Posted by Julia Leef

Among the open positions in this semester's Student Government Association elections are the sustainability senator and seven specialized Willingness-to-Serve spots for the new Sustainability Committee, which the SGA added to its ranks at the end of last semester.

In addition to these positions, the committee also will include two s-reps appointed by the sustainability senator, the sustainability coordinator and a representative from the Environmental Action Club. These students will serve as communicators between their two groups, allowing for better collaboration with the various on-campus environmental groups. There will also be a senator step-up position, whose job is to serve as a link between the committee and the SGA.

"Over the past couple of years we've seen a lot of sustainability initiatives, but the problem is that there's not much integration or collaboration," said Raiza Nazareth, vice president of SGA. "So this committee aims to achieve that."

According to Riley Neugebauer, the College's sustainability coordinator, the committee formed as the result of an idea several students had in spring 2011, including Talia Arnow, '13, who interns with Neugebauer at the Facilities Services in North Hall.

Neugebauer said Arnow felt there wasn't a strong enough connection between the environmental groups and the SGA, and, along with Neugebauer, worked with an ad hoc committee to determine the logistics of a new committee that would address these concerns.

"I see it as a great opportunity for students to define their own sort of process and structure for moving sustainability forward at the College because students do have a lot of power on this campus," Neugebauer said.

Nazareth said she has received several Willingness-to-Serve applications for the specialized positions on the committee, each dealing with a specific area of environmental interest: waste, academics, green building, transportation, energy & climate, food & dining services and land use management. These positions will be voted on at each Tuesday SGA Senate meeting.

"I've been getting applications for Sustainability Committee since winter break," Nazareth said. "I'm really excited to see how that goes, how the sustainability senator fits in with the Senate. It's a trial period. I think Willingness-to-Serve will go really well; I think it will be a really good semester."

Members of the Sustainability Committee will work to gather and disperse information throughout the campus to various environmental groups, including the all-faculty member Campus Environment Committee, of which Neugebauer is a member.

The CEC is a subcommittee under the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee that acts as a sounding board for topics of environment, taking ideas and propositions to the IPPC. Among these potential changes would be changing the name to the Campus Sustainability Committee and installing Neugebauer as the co-chairwoman, allowing her to sit on the IPPC. These suggestions will be brought before the IPPC sometime this semester.

Neugebauer will work closely with the sustainability senator to form ideas and aid in communications with the IPPC, something that the SGA is also able to do. With the establishment of the Sustainability committee, students now have a direct avenue to the IPPC, whereas before they were required to communicate via the CEC.

"I'm glad to see that it's happened and that it's happening so soon after the initial idea," said Neugebauer, referring to the quick turnover from the initial idea phase that began only last year.

Students involved with other on-campus environmental groups seem to welcome the new committee as a catalyst for communication between all groups.

"The committee provides an opportunity for the Environmental Studies department, the CEC, Sustainable Skidmore, the SGA and the EAC to divide and conquer to help institutionalize the idea of sustainability as a serious issue that needs to be addressed," said Margot Reisner '14, president of the EAC. "As an s-rep, an Environmental Studies major and president of the EAC, I am incredibly excited and hopeful about the potential of this committee."

Potential candidates for committee positions will soon have a chance to bring their ideas before the SGA.

"We've already received several applications and we're going to be bringing them into Senate very soon—probably next week," Nazareth said. "We'll see how it goes, but at the end of the semester we're going to evaluate and see what we can do better for next semester."

Students who wish to apply for Willingness-to-Serve positions should visit the SGA website to fill out an application. Applications will be available for the rest of the semester, or until all positions are filled.

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