Part 2: The Numbers Debate

Protesters Aletta Doran, Ellen Hughes and Reilly Reynolds set up tents the first morning.

While both the student demonstrators and members of the Board of Trustees said they valued improving the university’s sustainability efforts, the central matter they disagreed on was how the position could be funded.

President Jones said that the position could be funded with another grant or by reallocating university resources, but at the cost of defunding another existing staff position.

“We will explore all possibilities for advancing the sustainability agenda in the most robust way possible,” Jones said via email.

Gene Castelli, Senior Director of Dining Services, said he thinks someone from Buildings and Grounds should have responsibility over sustainability efforts so they can better communicate with the companies that handle composting. Castelli served on the sustainability task force last year and manages the two composting interns paid through Chartwells.

“Every small step gets you closer to the end of the journey. So to that end we’re going to keep doing the small steps, we’re going to keep composting.”

– Gene Castelli

Shari Stone-Mediatore, the former task force leader, said many members of the task force regret that the university doesn’t have the funds for a permanent coordinator.

“We believe that, if funds can be found to support the position, the position would be well worth the investment,” she said.

She listed advantages of it as including supporting and overseeing student-initiated projects, allow for visible sustainability activity to attract prospective students and allow for theory-practice grants on sustainability.

Cathleen Butt, ‘91, an Alumni Association representative on the Board of Trustees, said that while sustainability is important, funding and the university’s budget are the issue.

President Jones and trustee Cathleen Butt '91 meet with protesters.
President Jones and trustee Cathleen Butt ’91 meet with protesters.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of different demands for money, and that’s the reason we have committees, to work out budget issues like that,” said West Ohio Area trustee Robert Roach, ‘68. “It’s a tough issue, but I feel that we’ll address it. I’m just not sure how it’s going to be done.”

Roach said that the issue would be addressed by the Board’s Finance and Operations Committee.

Former trustee Katherine Comer, ‘76, agreed, saying that the issue is with funding and dividing available money between good causes and determining their priority.

Non-voting life trustee George Conrades, ‘61, told demonstrators he wasn’t sure that it would be an expensive endeavor to have a sustainability coordinator and unpaid student assistants.

“I think that’s the most powerful model of all, have someone to coordinate but instead of staff use students, cause then you’ll all learn more.”

– George Conrades

Vice President for Finance and Administration Dan Hitchell said the sustainability coordinator position came up “quite often” during Trustee meetings throughout the week.

Hitchell, also treasurer for the Board, said that reinstating it did not come up during conversations he was in, but that he was not present for all conversations.

For the demonstrators, the financial issue was very clear – hiring a sustainability coordinator would save the university money in the long run.

As proof, they point to Kinghorn’s projected ten-year report, which detailed how the university’s costs on energy and waste disposal services, among other expenditures, would be reduced by sustainability efforts.

The projected savings totaled $1,633,430, not counting a planned program in Gordon Field House that was not implemented. After subtracting Kinghorn’s $60,000 per year salary, the protesters argued, the university would save around a million dollars or more.

“He saved the University more than he’s salaried, yeah, that’s absolutely correct,” senior Karli Amstadt said. “…(The 10-year projection is) just from the savings he generated in his first two years here, so if he was actually here getting more annual savings that number would be even higher.”

“I just think that there’s no counter argument. There’s no way you can disagree with that, you know, those are the numbers and those are the facts and that would save the university a million dollars in ten years.”

– Ellen Hughes

“It just doesn’t make sense, with all the great stuff that Sean Kinghorn did for us and all the money he saved and just how inspiring he was to students…it’s just really disappointing that he’s no longer here.”

She said that it would have cost the university money at first, like anything business-related, but would soon lead to savings.

“The thing about a green program, like composting for example, that costs money to start, but think about how much waste we’ve reduced already by having it,” Hughes said.

Amstadt, too, used the compost program in particular as an example of a green program that could save money.

“As far as the composting program, it can save the university money because we pay for trash pickup by weight, whereas our compost pickup is free,” Amstadt said. “If we had 100 percent compost that would be optimal.”

Jones said in an email that he was reviewing the data on projected savings, and that it will inform his thinking about the issue.

He also said the students “are articulate in making the case for these causes, and they are very good at gathering data to support the case.”

However, he also said that that he believes existing staff members can achieve the cost reductions Kinghorn was projected to.

“It is not accurate to say that these savings cannot be achieved without a sustainability coordinator.”

– Rock Jones

Amstadt, however, was skeptical that the savings could be maintained without a permanent coordinator.

“Sean invested so much time writing grants for programs, executing programs, and some things, like May Move-Out are simply not possible without a permanent sustainability coordinator,” she said in an email.

“Giving more faculty and staff members who are already extremely busy more responsibilities is not the answer and is not a sustainable model,” Amstadt added. “It is an issue of time, coordinating all of the sustainability work on campus is a full time job-if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be so many other GLCA colleges with a sustainability coordinator… If the administration does not see the necessity of a permanent sustainability coordinator then they need a wake up call because the facts support us.”

Next: ‘Solidarity for Sustainability’


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