Sustainability Committee to meet next week
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SF State’s new sustainability committee will meet for the first time next week to begin planning the university’s green agenda for 2009, despite criticism over the selection process for the committee's student representative.

The committee will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17 in Room 460 of the Administration building. Anyone from SF State can attend.

“It will be a general thing, just to convene us and bring us together,” said Leroy Morishita, the committee’s co-chair and vice president of finance and administration.

Future agenda items will include drafting SF State’s sustainability vision statement and a climate action plan, according to a committee document stating its charge. The latter fulfills a requirement of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, to which President Robert A. Corrigan signed for SF State in September 2007. Forming the committee itself also satisfied a requirement.

Along with co-chairs Morishita and Provost John Gemello, the committee’s 14 members include several faculty and staff deeply involved with SF State’s environmental efforts. Faculty representatives include Carlos Davidson, director of environmental studies, while staff representatives include Recycling Coordinator Caitlin Steele, Vice President of Facilities Robert Hutson and Jim Bolinger, associate director of residential property management for University Housing.

Drew Foster, one of two student representatives, said he is looking forward to working with committee members “who’ve worked on this campus for up to 20 years and really know if something is feasible.” The graduate student and Recycling Center employee said he will bring “a fresh student perspective. We pay the money to go here, and it’s really important that we have a voice. At the same time, it’s really important to have the wisdom and knowledge of those who’ve been here for several years.”

Drafting a climate action plan “is a really big next step” for SF State, Foster said. Findings from last spring’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report, drafted by committee members Davidson and Steele, will help inform the plan, according to the committee’s charge. “It has useful information, but it’s only useful if you do something about it,” Foster said.

Another project Foster said he wants the committee to tackle would be a sustainable purchasing policy for the university. An effective policy would cover everything from Energy Star electronics to paper products made from post-consumer recycled content, he said.

Though “nobody’s kidding themselves” over the enormity of “overarching goals like carbon neutrality or ‘zero waste,’” Foster said he believes the committee will help SF State take “a lot of small, reasonable actions…to help us reach that final goal, and you can’t get there without taking these first steps. You gotta shoot for the stars to get to the moon, at least.”

Selecting the other student representative, however, created controversy between Associated Students, Inc. and several student environmental activists.

The ASI Board of Directors voted 10-5 Wednesday, Nov. 19 to select fellow member Franklin Griffen in a last-minute addition to its meeting agenda. Board President Natalie Franklin said during the meeting that she did not initially intend to select someone that day, but Morishita and Peter Koo, ASI executive director, urged her to choose quickly. Both also recommended selecting a board member, while Koo specifically recommended Griffen, she said.

The decision confused and frustrated students who applied for the seat and board member Marc Ong, who accepted their applications. Ong, vice president of ASI’s University Affairs committee, said during the meeting that “[University Affairs was] going to recommend a procedure and an appointment.”

Bryan Ting, a member of ECO Students and one of the four public attendees at the meeting, said “it’s extremely disappointing” that Franklin did not review letters of intent before selecting the ASI representative.

Ting and other members of ECO Students told fellow members and environmental studies majors about the opportunity to apply before the meeting. “We saw many people who would love to apply for it, as it was very under-publicized. I’m sure people other than environmental studies majors would have been interested as well,” he said.

Some ECO Students members sent e-mails to board members expressing concern over the decision and urging them to respond “as to why students were excluded from being considered in this process.” While the Student Center Governing Board “outreached to the Environmental Studies department and the ECO-Students” with its representative selection, “ASI was late in outreaching to the student body” and did not take into consideration “the requests of students in opening up the Sustainability position,” according to one e-mail.

Ong responded to the e-mails with one of his own. “I applaud you all for having an interest in the shared governance of San Francisco State University,” he wrote, but Ong did not indicate the selection would change. He instead urged interested parties to work with Griffen for now and hinted that future selections would invite student applications.

“It sounded like the decision is final,” Ting said. Though he did not agree with ASI’s selection process, Ting said he was “totally not opposed” to Griffen personally and looked to cooperate with him in the future.

Besides, the SCGB selected Foster, an ECO Students member, to hold the sustainability committee’s other student seat. “Drew’s on the committee, so we’ll make sure that we express our opinion through Drew, and that we keep up with ASI,” said Ting, who added “we’re trying to encourage members of our own” to run for ASI offices.

“We’d love to get somebody in there. It would certainly send a message to ASI, that if we’re not represented, if you choose to ignore our democratic voice, we will run for your seats,” Ting said.

Committee members said that ASI had the authority to make its selection the way it wished.

“We made it so that one representative is selected by Associated Students…and how they proceed is up to them. That’s their prerogative,“ Morishita said.

“[ASI’s selection process] was kind of discouraging. However, that’s the way politics works. It’s not like they were violating any laws or anything,” Foster said. “I’m glad that the committee has formed and we’re going to be meeting, moving forward and promoting sustainability issues on campus. That’s what’s more important for the future, not student politics.”

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