Student Senate candidates sound off on sustainability
By Lucas Bechtol, CG News
With Student Senate elections only days away, the PEAR (Prepare to Engage, Act and Respond) and SOUND tickets find themselves differing starkly on one issue: sustainability.
PEAR will strive to make the campus coal free, while SOUND wants to ensure that new and renovated buildings will be environmentally friendly.
Emily Hanford, presidential candidate for PEAR, said her ticket wants to make OU a leader in sustainability issues by educating students about those issues.
“Everyone says, ‘we want to be more sustainable,’ but they don’t necessarily know what that means,” Hanford said.
Hanford said PEAR has educated its senatorial candidates about sustainability issues, but that is only the first step.
“After that, it’s working with student organizations, like Beyond Coal and the Sierra Coalition, to see what they’re doing and see how our goals kind of work together,” Hanford said.
PEAR’s plans include working with Residence Life to help incoming freshmen learn about sustainable practices. PEAR would also speak at classes in the University College, Hanford said. University College classes attract a diverse group of students and would work well as an educational forum, she added.
PEAR’s main goal is to rid OU of its dependency on coal-powered heat. Ohio University’s Lausche Heating Plant currently has three coal-fired burners and one natural gas boiler that provide heat to the university. In 2007, Lausche received 31,164 tons of coal, according to OU Office of Sustainability’s website.
Senate would work with Beyond Coal, a subgroup of the Sierra Club. Such a collaboration would help Beyond Coal achieve its goal of ensuring that OU President Roderick McDavis follows through with his stated commitment to end OU’s coal dependency, Hanford said.
PEAR also plans on implementing several smaller ideas that could make a larger impact when taken together, Hanford said. Those ideas include making course evaluations and students’ DARS reports available online to save money and paper as well as giving students with super meal plans reusable grocery bags for use in on-campus markets.
Jesse Neader, presidential candidate for the SOUND ticket, places sustainability under his platform plank of preservation.
“It’s all about maintaining what we have,” Neader said, referring to OU’s sustainability programs and the growth of programs such as Recyclemania, an intercollegiate recycling competition that started at OU.
SOUND’s plans also include working with the Public Private Partnership Initiative, a campus program that plans on renovating dorms and building new ones with the help of private developers. Senate can look at the building contracts before selection and make recommendations to the initiative, Neader said. SOUND could use that involvement to help make sure new dorms are built sustainably.
“It’s being very practical and making sure we’re going with companies that are going to use natural light instead of electricity in their new building models,” Neader said.
SOUND would directly lobby the university if OU doesn’t act on sustainability issues, Neader said. Senate should embrace its potential as a student advocacy group, he said.
“In the past we haven’t had people actively writing letters and using that advocacy body that we are,” he added. “We’ve kind of turned into a programming body and we need to move away from that.”
However, all lobbying needs to be done within reason to avoid “burning bridges,” Neader said. Working with the OU administration is vital for making any advances, and it is nearly impossible to get anything done if ties are broken, he said.
The winning presidential candidate will appoint an environmental liaison to the university, Hanford said.
Part of the liaison’s duty will be to work with the Office of Sustainability, sit on the President’s Council for Sustainability Planning and promote sustainability in Senate, Neader said.
Senate elections will be held online Thursday. Students can cast their votes on the OU student page.