Eco-themed contest marred by controversy, miscommunication
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KEEN, Inc, a Portland, Oregon-based footwear company stopped at SF State’s Jack Adams Hall Nov. 6 as part of its 50-campus college tour offering a $1,000 prize to support environmental efforts.

The Eco Students, Marketing Association (MA), Accounting Students’ Organization (ASO) and Information Management Systems Association (IMSA) all partook in the initiative, called “STAND,” designed to get students involved with projects dedicated to sustainability.

The college prizes are part of a larger, nationwide contest for all American adults, in which three $25,000 “first prizes” and 15 $5,000 “second prizes” are awarded to sustainability projects.

However, the SF State presentation revealed a communication breakdown between KEEN and the student groups involved when it ended before one of the groups had planned to speak and didn’t clarify who would receive the $1,000 campus award.

In addition to presenting a guest speaker and a documentary exemplifying such projects—from starting a local organic farm to making sculptures from scrap materials—”STAND” was supposed to give student groups time to present environmental projects on campus, and the audience would vote to award the best one $1,000.

But after speaker Mark Godley answered questions from an audience of about 50, students began filing out. No student groups presented, nobody voted for a winning project and the prize was never mentioned to the audience.

The Eco Students, SF State’s group of environmentally conscious students, had prepared something for the contest and intended to speak during the event on several upcoming projects that could use funding, including a community organic garden, making their Earth Day “stuff swap” a year-round activity on campus and online, and videotaping a bicycle trip from Chico to San Jose while visiting local universities’ environmental programs.

The group also helped promote the event and should have been recognized, said Janet Remolona-Blecha, who is assistant to the Dean of the College of Business.

“I was thinking, ‘Did you forget somebody?’ To me, they didn’t really get the point of it,” Remolona-Blecha said after some students introduced “STAND” and thanked the MA, ASO and IMSA.

SF State had more student groups promoting the event than other campuses. Unlike most of the other “STAND” events on KEEN’s campus tour, the company and some of SF State’s student groups agreed beforehand to split the campus prize, said Erika Bruhn, marketing manager for KEEN.

Rather than decide who should get what, MA Vice President Golden Ashby said “It would be easier to split it three ways.” The split signified that “it was all about working together,” and that the turnout “was good based on what we had to work with,” he said.
“The fairest way to compensate them was to reward all of them,” Bruhn said.

Foundation manager Chris Enlow said each group will be mailed a check for $250 in January 2008. None of the groups said what they planned to use the money for.

Some of the student group promoters, however, were not aware that the split had already been decided. And there were four groups, not three, that should have been accounted for.

Just after the event, members of MA, ASO and IMSA congratulated each other for promoting the event and said the prize would be split among themselves, leaving ECO Students wondering if it would receive anything at all.

“We’re disappointed about how it’s all turned out, but it’s not all about the money,” said Suzanne McNulty, a member of ECO Students.

Despite the incentive, “this event was about way more than money to those organizations involved. It was about working together as a team to help spread KEEN’s sustainability message throughout the Bay Area,” said Ashby, who added, “I had wished the Eco Group would have had more time to be involved.”

It was unclear when the group would get to present, however, and the event ended before McNulty and others could take the stage. Nevertheless, ECO Students will continue to promote KEEN’s contests.

“I hope the business students stand up, stand out or stand for something,” McNulty said, echoing the titles of the three contests for $25,000 each.

Ashby and Amy Wang, corporate relations officer, explained MA’s involvement in an event for sustainability. Remolona-Blecha asked the student group to promote the event and find other groups willing to help.

“Naturally, [MA] volunteered to lead promotions for STAND. We were given an incentive that the organizations participating would receive $1000 to divide upon completion of the project,” Wang said.

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