New campus sustainability initiatives

By Chris Beauchamp

Environmental sustainability is rapidly becoming a significant issue as it is examined everywhere from corporate boardrooms and city councils, to the University of Calgary Administration and Students’ Union.

According to SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Greg Clayton, a sustainability report has been commissioned by the U of C to examine environmental policy on campus with the goal of establishing a campus sustainability office.

“[U of C VP Finance and Services] Mike McAdam went out to have a report commissioned,” said Clayton, stressing the huge amount of time required to create a final policy on sustainability. According to Clayton, the report has been on McAdams’ desk since July. 1, 2004.

“It is something we want to work with the university on,” said Clayton, adding the SU is reluctant to draft its own sustainability policies until the university announces final policy plans.

The SU’s reluctance is a contentious point with graduate student Yori Jamin and recent graduate Lisa Willott. Jamin and Willott both sat on last year’s Campus Recycling Board, and have been lobbying the SU to create a student sustainability coordinator since Jan. 2004.

“If you have an environmental idea, who do you have to talk to on campus to make it happen?” asked Jamin. “Our goal was to create an avenue in the SU for students to work on environmental projects.”

Originally looking to get the position funded by the CRB, Jamin and Willott were told the funding was unavailable. Willott, who served as an Op-Fi Commissioner last year, then pitched the idea to the outgoing SU Executive Council in May, but was told to save her proposal for the incoming cabinet. The current cabinet also turned down the initiative.

“They didn’t even read it and they turned it down,” said Jamin.

Facing multiple refusals, but convinced of widespread support for their initiative, Jamin and Willott turned to the campus community for support.

“We got 11 letters from student groups and faculty,” said Willot, noting the departments of Biological Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, and Environmental Science, as well as the Campus Greens, CJSW, the Eco-Club, the Development Studies Club and other groups all endorsed the proposal.

The letters prompted a meeting with Clayton, SU President Bryan West and SU Communications Coordinator Bev Hill, where Jamin and Willott were turned down again.

“They said no,” said Willott, noting money was not a factor in the refusal. “Because the package is still on Mike McAdam’s desk, they feel they can’t go forward with a student initiative until the university has announced how they are going to go forward. The university has all the bureaucracy and red tape, so the SU has an opportunity to take the lead.”

Willott and Jamin are both finishing their time at the U of C and looking to move on to careers.

“There’s nobody in the SU mandated to work on environmental issues,” said Jamin. “We’re afraid now that we’re moving on, this proposal’s just going to drop and the SU will continue to do nothing.”

McAdam was unavailable before press time this week, but look for his comments in next week’s issue.

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