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Senate to Hire Student Sustainability Coordinator: Hopes Administration Will Follow Example

When it comes to prospies with a passion for sustainability, the Admissions Office has plenty of material for promotional mailings: a $5.4 million energy efficiency contract the college signed last fall, the ecological gem that is the Canyon, and a performing arts building with a green roof on the way.

But Environmental Health and Safety Sustainability Intern Talia Tiffany ’13 says Reed is missing something that many of its peer institutions now take for granted: a sustainability coordinator.

“We’re falling behind. We need to keep up,” says Tiffany. “This is part of having a well-rounded institution.”

But she has a partial solution.

Tiffany, who has been working as a sustainability intern for EHS since her freshman year, joined forces with Senator Marie Perez ’12 (S/F) last semester to fill the gap. But rather than try to push the administration to hire a full time coordinator, something Tiffany considers more of a “long-term project,” Tiffany and Perez decided hiring a student sustainability coordinator, paid out of Student Body Funds, would be the next best thing. Perez made their proposal public at a Senate meeting in November, and Senate passed the measure before the semester’s end. Senate plans to release applications for the position the week before spring break.

Senator Nina Liss-Schultz ’13, who has been working with Tiffany on planning the position’s creation, says Perez’s comments in a September Quest article on Reed’s Sustainability Committee attracted Senate’s attention. Perez called the Sustainability Committee had $13,000 in reserve to spend on projects to promote sustainability on campus, half supplied by the student body, half by the president’s office, a “dead horse.”

“Marie’s statements in The Quest about the Sustainability Committee last semester really brought Senate’s attention to the relative lack of sustainability efforts on campus, and so we were very happy with Marie’s proposal from the beginning,” Liss-Schultz says.

Tiffany hopes the new position will foster communication among a student body that is sometimes disparate and renews itself every four years.

“One of the problems with sustainability efforts in terms of the student body is that there is no institutional continuity,” says Tiffany. Reedies are passionate about sustainability, she adds, but don’t always have the resources to make changes. “They’ve got their drive, and they’ve got their thing. This position will connect people to what they need to make lasting change.”

Senator Annam Swanson ’14, who has also worked with Tiffany and Liss-Schultz on creating the position, says the student sustainability coordinator will also educate students about the college’s sustainability initiatives and plan one large project each year. “I (and others) hope that the SSC will engage the Reed community in sustainability efforts and jumpstart an influx of new student-driven projects,” Swanson says.

Liss-Schultz hopes that the student sustainability coordinator will do more to educate the student body that put up posters. “Ideally the SSC would be able to take students on tours of the already existing initiatives so that more people can get hands on learning about how things actually look and work,” she says.

In the absence of a full-time sustainability coordinator, Tiffany says, sustainability initiatives have been in the hands of Facilities Services. “There are a few people in Facilities who are doing so much.” Reed hasn’t moved to address the issue on a large scale, Tiffany says, because there hasn’t been sufficient action on the part of the community to ask the administration to do so. “The institution hasn’t been put in the pressure cooker about this.”

Tiffany, Liss-Schultz, and Swanson agree that the position is not intended to be a substitute for a full-time sustainability coordinator, but they hope it will be a step toward hiring one. “Actually, part of the idea for this student position was that they might serve as a sort of pilot for what a full-time position might look like. If the SSC is successful and popular, their position will hopefully serve as a stepping-stone for the hire of a full-time sustainability coordinator,” says Liss-Schultz.

Director of Facilities Townsend Angell says students proposed hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator to the Sustainability Committee several years ago, but that President Colin Diver did not approve the proposal because the coordinator’s role “was never clearly defined.” Reed is reluctant to hire new staff unless the college is assured of their utility, Angell says. “Creating any new staff position at Reed College is a competitive and highly scrutinized process. In real terms the person has to be of perceived value equal to the resources expended in hiring them.”

Angell says he thinks creating a student sustainability coordinator position is a good idea, but that a full-time sustainability coordinator is unnecessary. Facilities Services and EHS, he says, have already proved their commitment to sustainability. “We are always available to discuss and help actualize viable student input to improve methods for achieving sustainability in campus energy management, waste reduction, recycling and effective utilization of College resources. I don’t feel a staff position is needed from a PR perspective.”

But Tiffany is hopeful that the student body can persuade the administration otherwise. “That’s a long-term project I’m hoping to create some energy around,” she says.

The student sustainability coordinator will make $100 a month their first month on the job, but receive a pay raise every semester they stay on. The reason for this, Swanson says, is “because the position requires a working knowledge of Reed’s institutional processes,” and will become more familiar with these processes over time.

“They will become increasingly valuable, and their work will become increasingly valuable the longer they’re in this position,” Tiffany says.

The second semester of their tenure, the student sustainability coordinator’s monthly stipend will jump to $200. (For comparison, Senators make $150 a month. The Head Student Body Treasurer, the highest-paid student body position, makes $350 a month.) That monthly amount will increase by $25 very subsequent semester, assuming the coordinator passes a semesterly review.

During the review process, Swanson says that Applications Committee will contact those with whom the student sustainability coordinator has worked over the course of the semester. “AppComm will then take all of this information and deliberate on the SSC’s performance. Should this review process show that the SSC has been underperforming, they will decide whether to decrease pay, forego the semester raise, or begin a search for a new SSC.”

After six semesters in the role, the student sustainability coordinator would be the second-highest paid student body position.

Swanson says the cost is justified. “Yes, it is absolutely worth it to add another SB position. If Reed hopes to have a full-time sustainability coordinator later, building from the student level is the best way to start.”

Students interested in the position should watch SB Info and The Quest’s announcements page for information on applying.

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