Sustainability Coordinator Position Approved

Dylan Tull

After long months of student and ASWC advocacy, Whitman College has voted to install a permanent staff position that would coordinate and oversee all green and sustainable efforts on campus. The Board of Trustees met Friday, Feb. 16, to decide whether or not to approve the sustainability coordinator position. Back in November of last year, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) sent a request to Whitman College for the approval of a permanent sustainability coordinator position. The Board of Trustees released the decision to approve the sustainability coordinator position Wednesday morning, Feb. 20.

Working towards sustainability has not been an easy or a short process. Student groups, ASWC and current part-time student sustainability interns, seniors Natalie Jamerson and Zoey Rogers, have worked diligently to convince the college that installing a sustainability coordinator would be beneficial to the campus.

“I was just relieved that all the work we put in to getting this position, and showing the college that it would be really useful on this campus, had an impact. That’s why I was pleased. I also think that it’s really important for the school as [it is] trying to grow to be focused on sustainability,” ASWC Finance Chair senior Sam Sadeghi said.

The sustainability coordinator will be a permanent faculty position that helps to organize all of the green projects happening on campus. Currently, Jamerson and Rogers fulfill the role of sustainability coordinators for the school. However, they felt that the job of developing Whitman’s sustainability projects required more time than two student interns could give. In addition, a single faculty adviser could help unite green groups on campus to more effectively carry out sustainability projects.

“As a member of groups throughout my time here, there has been a distinct lack of advising from faculty or staff, and the groups operate pretty independently––which is great because it leaves a lot of room for student initiation and leadership. But I think the groups can be more unified by a coordinator,” Jamerson said.

In addition, the sustainability coordinator will be able to initiate his or her own sustainability projects.

“They would identify projects of their own. So, for example, ‘We want to make Olin Hall green leaf certified…’ They would be the person pushing for that initiative rather than Campus Climate Challenge or all these other student groups trying to make stuff happen. They would be that point person,” said ASWC President junior Kayvon Behroozian.

The current sustainability interns’ work in the spring will be to transfer knowledge regarding Whitman’s green projects to the new coordinator, and make sure that he or she is acquainted with the way sustainability efforts and groups function on campus.

“A lot of my responsibilities this spring will be to fill out our manual to prepare someone to take on this position. That’s going to be really important: to transfer the knowledge base that we’ve collected to someone that may not even be familiar with Whitman at all,” Jamerson said.

Perhaps most importantly, Whitman College’s decision to approve a sustainability coordinator position represents a renewed commitment to the green efforts in the community. While Whitman students are clearly very environmentally minded, the school has had yet to prove its intention towards building a greener campus. Both Sadeghi and Jamerson spoke to the importance of this in relation to Whitman’s peer colleges.

“Students on this campus are super environmentally minded … That same sort of standard is sometimes overlooked by the college, so this is a cool way to finally see that the college is recognizing students’ interest in sustainability,” Sadeghi said.

The sustainability coordinator position is a sign of great progress for Whitman students’ sustainability efforts. The combination of student group efforts and a full-time coordinator could lead to more effective and widespread green campaigns.

“We say that we’re green, that we have students interested in these things, but we can’t really prove it because we don’t have anyone to be our voice. Middlebury [College] has an office of sustainability and has hired lots of people for this issue, and we have two students. This is a tangible step in integrating more sustainability-focused projects and having a greater commitment [to sustainability]. I’m really hopeful,” Jamerson said.