Green fee may lead to sustainability hire

By Gus Bode

The SIUC Sustainability Council is close to creating a position for a campus sustainability coordinator, after nearly a year of plans.

Erin Seekamp, vice chair of the Sustainability Council and assistant professor of forestry, said since the council was established in 2008, members have wanted a permanent administrative position for someone to propose initiatives that will affect campus-wide sustainability.

The position will be created after approval from the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, a committee that advises the recruitment, hiring and retention of university employees. The candidate will collaborate with university officials to develop environmental policies for the campus.


Jonathan Gray, chair of the Sustainability Council and associate professor of speech communication, said sustainability is about efficiency at SIU.

“We need to make sure our practices … are operating in a way that will allow them to continue working tomorrow, but (also) well into the future,” he said.

The Sustainability Council, a council that focuses on on-campus renewable energy and energy efficiency, was formed after Undergraduate Student Government implemented a green fee, a $10 student fee for on-campus sustainability projects and research. The council is responsible for managing and distributing funds from the fee for sustainability and research at the university.

Gray said students have supported the Sustainability Council and the need for a sustainability coordinator since the proposal of the green fee.

Jarid Perrin, a junior from Lindenwood studying forestry, said a sustainability coordinator could save money by combining existing campus resources.

“We are a research institution, and right now we have several people scattered all over campus working within housing, dining and at the Physical Plant focusing on sustainability. They’re all doing their own thing, but a coordinator could bring them together,” he said.

Gray said the council expects the position to be approved in the upcoming weeks, and he wants to hire someone as early as spring 2012.


He said the chosen candidate will be responsible for assessing campus sustainability as well as overseeing and coordinating the distribution of the green fee. He said the responsibilities require more time and energy than a volunteer council member can offer because most are full-time employees.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the council will be responsible to fund the position for 18 months if it is approved. She said the university will then assess the position’s necessity and the impact it has on the university.

“Specific funding for the position is not available and neither are funds to expand staff at the university,” Cheng said. “We will evaluate the outcomes and look for ways to ensure funding in the future.”

Seekamp said she thinks a sustainability coordinator will bring more structured opportunities for students by offering jobs, research and better sustainability education on campus.

“We see this as the beginning for what sustainability at the university can be,” she said. “We want to see sustainability fueled by students.”