On Sept. 15, the evening before the Officers’ Summit, Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability (WSES) held an event to campaign their goals in hopes of making the Delegates’ Agenda. This was the first time a student organization held a campaign and rallied to gain votes. The following day, issues were voted on by officers of student organizations. Sustainability received 39 votes, making it the top issue on the agenda.
“I think the advocacy role is really great because I’ve seen students on other campuses that are really passionate about what they do and getting people motivated, and that hasn’t always been the case at Webster,” John Ginsburg, director of the University Center and student activities, said. “Our students work more hours and they’re busy, so it’s hard for them to rally around an issue. I thought it was a great model and I hope that it continues so more groups can do that.”
In past semesters at the Officers’ Summit, officers of student organizations would show up and talk briefly about campus issues they felt needed to be addressed. Officers then voted on the issues presented and would comprise the Delegates’ Agenda.
This year, WSES held an event where their organization could discuss the issue of sustainability more in-depth, and why it should be on the Delegates’ Agenda. They also opened the floor for others to discuss their ideas for more than just a few minutes. Students from Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), Amnesty International, Student Government Association (SGA), UC workers and some students with no affiliation with an organization came to the event.
WSES’s sustainability plan this year is taking a different approach than other options for environmental enhancement seen at past Delegates’ Agendas. Forms of sustainability have been voted on at least 15 times over six years at the Summit — the goals ranged from improving recycling to hiring a sustainability coordinator and installing green architecture.
This year, Erin Hindalong, WSES secretary and SGA senator for the School of Communications, and Kris Parsons, vice president of WSES and SGA senator at large, drafted a Climate Action Plan with the help of research done by other WSES members. The Climate Action Plan has a goal of making Webster a campus that uses 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Compared to other years, this sustainability goal is more strategic and collaborative in nature said SGA President Justin Raymundo.
In the past, students were asking for more specific solutions like recycling but, with this plan, they are asking for a long-term commitment from the university.
“Those are tactics,” Parsons said. “We’re not asking for tactics anymore… What we want is a vision. What we want is a plan. What we want is to address sustainability in such a way that it never has to come up on Delegates Agenda again.”
Another objective is to create more awareness by presenting information on energy efficiency and other environmental topics to students, faculty and staff so they are well-informed on those topics. WSES’s goal is to hold more events and show more documentaries on sustainability to create a flow of information, Hindalong said.
“I think what WSES can do is create more of a culture on campus for sustainability. Make it kind of an awareness that this is the kind of campus we are,” Hindalong said. “Overall education and awareness will try and be enhanced.”
The plan is timely for sustainability due to the re-creation of the university’s master plan in January. Hindalong said a certain percentage of increasing energy efficiency on all constructed or renovated buildings could be included in the master plan. She said it would be a good start in sustainability.
In April 2011, Parsons and Hindalong coordinated a trip for WSES students and other campus leaders to attend a Power Shift conference, the largest leadership training conference in the country. The second largest was done for the Obama Campaign. The conference helped students become educated on topics in environmental sustainability by hosting speakers and workshops. It also taught them how to become strategic and coordinated leaders.
“Power Shift really energized WSES in a way that it hadn’t been before, and we came back to campus with projects and plans on how to implement what we learned to campus,” Parsons said.
Many of the student leaders are involved in multiple organizations on campus. They express strong political leadership and passion through those groups.
“There are so many experienced student leaders, so many former presenters, so many student government members, and really just students that have real big concerns,” Raymundo said. “We’re approaching it in a way that the solutions, in my mind, are effective. They’re system and structure is focused so it’s not looking at a small problem or small tactic or one tiny solution, it’s looking at multiple options to create even better solutions.”