Sunday, June 16, 2024

Slow progress on sustainability office leads to student frustration

NewsCampus NewsSlow progress on sustainability office leads to student frustration

BY RISHA INAGANTI
Staff Reporter




President Assanis’s update emails are a way for the university community to learn about important campus updates. Last Earth Day, amongst the list of changes, was the promise of a way to make campus more environmentally friendly with a sustainability office, a request that has been put forth by a number of people around campus.

“I was definitely shocked when I saw the announcement,” Madi Drew, sophomore environmental science major and current president of the Student Sustainability Alliance, said. “It was a super surprising day for all of us.”

Chris Williams, entomology and wildlife ecology professor and sustainability council co-chair, emphasized the importance of a sustainability office, explaining how it would allow for an increase in productivity for the council. 

For three years, the university has had a sustainability council, made up of representatives from the university and the greater Newark area. They collectively work on spreading awareness and creating plans to make the university more sustainable, but they cannot truly actualize anything as a volunteer group with no budget.

“The office would allow UD to make strives in the right direction as far as sustainability goes,” Wylie Feaster, a senior environmental studies major and president of Students for the Environment, said. “These are changes that we really need to start worrying about.”

According to Feaster, the sustainability office will be a group that serves within the office of the provost and acts as a single body to govern environmental efforts on campus. This would allow the council to work on making a sustainability requirement for first year seminars, creating new areas of environmental study and hiring a management director for budgeting and marketing of sustainability actions. 

“The office would be more than just improving the planet,” Williams said. “It also affects school rankings and general appeal, and really would be a win for everyone.”

Despite the university promising the office would be up and running this semester, students and faculty returned to campus this fall and found that no progress had been made.

According to Williams, the failure to make progress on the sustainability office was due to the dedication to training and preparing Laura Carlson, the university’s new provost, for the school year.

Drew said that she understands why getting Carlson prepared for the year was the higher priority, but she wishes the university’s administration was more open with their plan of action.

“There’s a lack of communication,” Drew said. “The only reason I know anything is because I’ve been searching for it and constantly asking about it. And that’s not right”

The university has opened applications for a job titled “Director of Sustainable Operations” for the office. The DSO will work closely with the Vice Provost for Sustainability and the sustainability council to manage all aspects of sustainable operations, including implementation, budgeting and staffing needs. 

As of publication, the university has not made any public statement on the office’s progression, but according to Drew, in private email threads they have said they are confident they will hire someone by the end of the semester. 

According to Drew and Feaster, environmental RSOs are waiting to see what the university officially announces and for now are anticipating that what was said in emails is true. However, the slow progression has caused doubt for many about the university’s sincerity.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m throwing anyone under the bus but it feels like they’re lying about every step of the process,” Feaster said. “Administration will say they’re so far along when in reality they aren’t at all.”

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