The Absent Coordinator

Sean Kinghorn’s grant-funded position only lasted from spring 2011 to the summer of 2013, and whether the position should eventually be added to the university budget would soon become a topic of disagreement.

In the view of many students and some professors, the sustainability coordinator position played an essential role, but administrators said the responsibilities could be divided up, and that grant-funded positions are not added to the budget in general.

Thomas Tritton, the 2014-2015 chair of the Board of Trustees, sees advantages to distributing responsibilities among university staff, rather than focusing it all on one person – he referenced the then-recent appointment of an “Ebola czar” by President Obama.

“Rather than having, to use the language of the moment, a sustainability czar…I think distributing the responsibilities widely is a good way to accomplish broad social goals like this.”

– Thomas Tritton

Tritton said that sustainability is an important priority for the university, but not the most pressing one.

President Rock Jones also said that the grant that funded Kinghorn’s position was intended to be temporary and the position was meant to provide staff support to continue the programs it would create.

“Many of the initiatives that Sean Kinghorn developed in his time in that position have continued nicely,” Jones said. “And so the grant was effective in that way.”

However, many of these programs – like low-flow showerheads and energy efficient technology – are rarely noticed by students, as they don’t require direct participation in the way that May Move Out or post-consumer composting. In the case of some lightbulbs, which switch off when there’s been no movement in a room for a set period, it’s almost impossible for students to notice.

Without the coordinator, students now see sustainability as less important because it isn’t discussed as much, said Lauren Holler, president of the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs.

“It’s definitely something that student government still considers highly important, but I would say, in our opinion, the general climate of the campus has shifted away from promoting sustainability.”

– Lauren Holler

What remains are established university programs, like hydration stations and better food and energy efficiency methods discussed by Jones, and student-run programs such as the Community Garden and Water Week, which focused on awareness. May Move Out and the post-consumer compost programs are not currently held.

To move forward, task force member and former chair Tom Wolber said a coordinator would be “essential” and would give OWU a better chance at receiving grants.

Sound-Wolber on coordinator financial benefits

For example, Laurie Anderson, current task force chair, cited Kinghorn’s work in writing an internal theory-to-practice grant for energy improvements in the Tree House small living unit.

“(That) was really a good thing. There’s probably more of that that could be done in other small living units and that would be exciting to continue,” she said.

OWU Communications: A Sustainability Showcase.

Anderson also said that it was important to have a full-time coordinator to oversee more large-scale projects.

Sound-Anderson on educational benefits of coordinator

Former chair Shari Stone-Mediatore said the absence of the coordinator also contributed to the task force only having one meeting last year.

“It had an impact of people being frustrated and demoralized,” she said, adding that a part-time coordinator is needed at a minimum.

Student leader Ellen Hughes also said that carrying out sustainability efforts is harder without a coordinator, which she thinks is an “absolutely necessary” position.

However, geology-geography professor John Krygier has again taken over many of the practical projects by incorporating them into classes with a select group of students, something he’s been doing since before Kinghorn came to campus.

The latest example will be a seminar class next semester to look at the creation of a campus sustainability plan.

Gene Castelli, director of dining services, said that things could have moved forward more with a permanent coordinator, but that the university is still making progress in sustainability efforts.

Molly Fritz, an environmental science student at Denison University, said her school’s sustainability coordinator, Jeremy King, helps create a wide range of green benefits to the community.

Fritz - What Denison's coordinator does

Jones noted that a long-term goal for the university is to create a permanent coordinator, and described the advantages of that position.

Rock Jones - Overall benefits of a coordinator


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