Student Senate forms committee to foster sustainability on campus

Posted October 13, 2015

With sustainability as one of its core initiatives this year, Student Senate has formed a committee of students and administrators in an effort to make UW-River Falls more sustainable.

Being dedicated to re-focusing on issues that matter to students, this year’s Senate outlined four main initiatives that it will work on throughout the year: sexual assault prevention, mental health, inclusivity on campus, and sustainability.

The Committee of Advancing Sustainable Efforts (CASE), was created to increase awareness about sustainability on campus, promote a university-wide referendum to create a segregated sustainability fee that would take place spring semester, and promote a more accurate and dependable Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) report, according to CASE Chair Gregory Mathews.

CASE includes members from the Environmental Corps of Sustainability (ECOS), a student organization that spreads awareness about sustainability on campus and advocates for further sustainability efforts to be made at UWRF.

Mathews, who is also the chair of ECOS, said that he was excited when Senate President Christopher Morgan approached him with the idea of a sustainability committee, especially since ECOS hadn’t received much support from Senate in the past.

“It was a really good feeling to finally have that support from Student Senate,” said Mathews. “And I told him (Morgan) that if they gave me a chance I think we can really make some big changes.”

According to the UWRF website, sustainability is a priority for the university, with the goal for UWRF to be a leading climate negative university using “simple, elegant and affordable solutions to reduce our campus carbon footprint.”

UWRF received a silver rating from its 2013 STARS report, a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance,” according to the STARS website. This rating system gives college campuses scores on a variety different aspects pertaining to sustainability, including academics, research, campus operations, and innovation. UWRF also received an A- as an overall grade in 2011 from The College Sustainability Report Card, according to the university website.

Efforts to make UWRF more sustainable include the creation of the Sustainability Working Group (SWG), a Faculty Senate standing committee that coordinates and promotes sustainability values, principles, and practices on campus, and the Sustainability Faculty Fellows, members of faculty that participated in the annual sustainability workshop at UWRF and “have enacted curricular change within at least one of his or her courses”, according to the university website.

After UWRF’s Office of Sustainability was cut in 2014 due to budgeting issues, Mark Klapatch, a former UWRF student and previously the custodial supervisor at UWRF, also became the sustainability supervisor, taking on university’s operations to make the campus more sustainable.

Klapatch, who attended CASE’s first official meeting on Oct. 8, said that after reaching out to student organizations and administration, believes that students are UWRF really care about sustainability.

“I do think students are passionate and excited about it,” said Klapatch. “And the fact that there’s even a group looking at a green fee or students looking at how they can help with STARS to help our institution overall be more sustainable, it really does show that there’s a lot of passion here.”

Although the Falcon Center referendum that took place spring semester did not get much turnout, Senate Vice President SJ DeGroote said she hopes that a sustainability fee will be more appealing to students.

“That’s why I think the sustainability committee is really important,” said DeGroote. “To raise awareness and educate our students on why a green fee would be really important and huge for our campus, so that we can get students to support the fee.”

Kennedy Luedeman, a sophomore field biology major, said that although she doesn’t think about sustainability much, she believes that it is important and she would likely vote yes for a sustainability fee.

“How I think of sustainability is how long something works,” said Luedeman. “The longer we can sustain something to work, the better it will be for everyone else.”

DeGroote said that she hopes to get more students and student organizations involved with CASE as the year goes on, saying that the meetings are open to anyone that wishes to participate, even if they don’t want to commit to joining.

“I want a diverse group of students from all facets of our university to care about this and join our committee,” said DeGroote.

CASE meets biweekly, with its next meeting Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6 p.m. in the Eau Galle River Room (room 332) on the third floor of the University Center.