While the ‘Tent City’ protests of last October brought the sustainability issue to the front of campus discussion, no visible action was taken toward establishing a coordinator. This was the goal of the student activists, and they say resulting conversations are stalled by budgetary issues.
“Even during Tent City, we met with (university treasurer) Dan Hitchell and (president) Rock Jones and it was very redundant,” Hughes said, saying that the main concern expressed by administrators was the university budget.
Given the current financial state of the university, she stressed that she does not blame President Jones, Dan Hitchell or the trustees for the current lack of a coordinator.
Thomas Tritton, current chair of the trustees, said that sustainability is definitely a university priority – anyone who doesn’t think so would “have to be some kind of Luddite or Neanderthal.” However, he said there are other priorities, and the university is currently under a hiring freeze across the board.
“The sustainability position was never in the budget, it was always, in the language of the college, off-budget because it was funded by a grant,” Tritton said.
An interview with Dan Hitchell, vice president for Finance and Administration and Treasurer for the Board of Trustees, could not be arranged despite three weeks of efforts. Due to this, he did not go on record for the project.
Ohio Wesleyan does not include a green fee in the student activity fee, although some students and professors in the campus environmental movement have discussed the idea. With 1,750 students on campus, an individual student fee of $34.29 would pay a sustainability coordinator’s $60,000 salary.
President Rock Jones said that he’d heard of the green fee and requests to fund other positions, particularly in Counseling Services, through the student activity fee but it would require overwhelming student support, which hasn’t been there.
Professor Laurie Anderson, current sustainability task force chair, said a survey on the $10 green fee was distributed to students with help from the task force, and it showed some support for the idea. She believes the university is committed to sustainability, but has limited financial resources to provide.
Last year’s task force chair Tom Wolber thinks the university is providing “lip service” to sustainability in some areas. He said he does understand that the budget shortfall, caused by low enrollment, makes hiring in the future difficult.
In response to Wolber’s comments, Jones said, “I would beg to disagree…I think there is a significant commitment here.”
He discussed this commitment before specifically addressing Wolber’s assertion.