Bye Bye Bishop: Sustainability Coordinator Resigns

Will Booth, Staff Reporter

Brandon Bishop, The Campus Sustainability Coordinator at Whitman College, has recently decided to move on from his role at Whitman.

Bishop was hired by Whitman in August of 2016. Now, in November of 2018, Bishop has decided to end his tenure as Sustainability Coordinator at Whitman to pursue a sustainability position at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. In Bishop’s two and a half years as Sustainability Coordinator, he worked to create a positive impact on the school though small, achievable projects. Bishop has found pride in being able to democratize the discourse around sustainability at Whitman and help students and community members to become educated on sustainability and its complexities.

“Sustainability, or the intersectionality of people, our environment, and our society, are critical for the world as a whole. Sustainability, at its crux, works to sustain an equilibrium of these systems in order to protect humanity.” Bishop said.

Bishop hopes that the level of progress that Whitman has made in the past years continues on, even after his departure.

“It is my hope that Whitman will continue to strengthen its sustainability efforts and aggressively pursue carbon neutrality,” Bishop said.

Compared to peer institutions, Whitman’s efforts for carbon neutrality and other sustainable actions have been less than aggressive. In a Wire article written earlier this year, it was reported that “Whitman ranked 244 out of 356” by the ASSHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) when compared to other qualified baccalaureate institutions. The ASSHE ranking system correlates to a sustainability index, STAR (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) that AASHE created. In comparison, Lewis & Clark College, a baccalaureate institution in the North West Conference, the same Conference as Whitman, ranked 9th. Lewis & Clark College has an endowment that is less than half the size of Whitman’s.

As Bishop leaves, a successor will presumably take his place. The departing Sustainability Coordinator offered a bit of advice for the future Sustainability Coordinator.

“I believe the Sustainability Coordinator is and should be an agent of change for the institution,” Bishop said. “It is my hope that the next Sustainability Coordinator will catalyze the efforts of students, staff, and faculty in order to make our campus a more sustainable organization.”

The location of Bishop’s office speaks to the authenticity of the campus’ outlook on sustainability. The Sustainability Coordinator’s office is currently located in the Physical Plant, a building that houses equipment and provides, according to Whitman’s website, a central location for “landscaping, waste management, transportation fleet vehicles, and other services.” The Physical Plant is located across East Issacs Avenue on the outskirts of campus.

Along with the removed location of the Sustainability Coordinator’s office, the Coordinator is not offered an expansive budget to resolve issues of sustainability on Whitman’s campus. The money that the Sustainability Coordinator does have access to comes from the Sustainable Revolving Loan Fund, or SRLF. Whitman’s website details “The Whitman Sustainable Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF),” a fund that issues “a $50,000 line of credit designated for campus improvements that significantly benefit Whitman’s sustainability efforts by conserving resources and improving efficiency.”

The Loan holds a couple of caveats. Whitman’s website states that “all loans are expected to generate savings that result in 100% payback within five to ten years.” Also, of the $50,000 dollars allotted to sustainability, “approximately $10,000 is available each year.” Sustainable projects are initially expensive; however, because of sustainable products’ efficiency and longevity, the initial down payment typically resolves and then becomes financially sound. Unfortunately, $10,000 dollars is not enough capital to supply for significant sustainable projects. The Loan could supply for LED light bulbs to be purchased and installed into buildings on Whitman’s campus, but is not nearly enough money to support the installation of solar photovoltaic cell solar panels.

With regards to the replacement of the SRLF, a sustainability endowment has been implemented at other baccalaureate institutions. The sustainability endowment would function similarly to the Sustainable Revolving Loan Fund, as there would be an allotted sum of money for enacting sustainable projects for the college. The money that these sustainable projects would inevitably save for the college would then be allowed to be reinvested into the stock market or future sustainable projects. This would allow for there to be a greater amount of funds for the sustainability department while holding the department financially accountable.

The departing Sustainability Coordinator also mentioned that students have the capability to be increasingly influential on Whitman’s outlook towards a more sustainable future.

“The best thing [students] can do is to be engaged and if [a student] sees an issue, [a student] should speak up. Most sustainable projects on this campus have been driven forward through individual and group student efforts,” Bishop said. “Everyone has the ability to create change.”

As a departing message, Brandon offered some insightful words to the Whitman community.

“I am sad to leave, but I am eager to watch this program and our community of Whitties continue to advance [issues on sustainability],” Bishop said. “In the future I hope that there will be the resources to match the efforts.”