Students meet with college administration to discuss steps toward going ‘green’



In recent months, Augie Green has intensified its push for what senior Mason Voehl calls a “culture of sustainability” at Augustana.

“Sustainability and going green have been really trendy, but I don’t see that going away,” Voehl said. “As a campus we haven’t really celebrated that together.”

Although Augustana does not have any big-picture projects underway, biology professor Steve Matzner says Augie Green has made several small steps toward sustainability in the last five years. The campus garden, a small plot of land on 33rd and Grange, is maintained by the student organization, and its produce is donated to the banquet. According to Matzner, community involvement of this kind is a vital step to a sustainable campus.

“I think we’re at a tipping point where we can start to make some really big changes,” Matzner said.

In a Feb. 25 meeting with professors and members of Augie Green, president Rob Oliver encouraged them to continue making similar efforts.

“We have to think about the big picture all the time and try not to get frustrated, but then we need to think small,” Oliver said.

Larger projects, which Voehl says are not feasible for student organizations to complete alone, will also become a higher priority, according to Oliver. For Voehl this would mean hiring full- or part-time sustainability staff, and Oliver says discussions have been held about energy-efficient theme houses or a windmill at the new science center. However, Oliver also stressed the need to advertise what Augustana already does.

“We haven’t done a very good job of committing ourselves to our values and our stories,” Oliver said.

Telling these “stories,” like the current transition to campus-wide, energy-efficient lighting, would bring more than fiscal benefits to Augustana in the long run, according to Voehl. He says he has spoken to many perspective students who look specifically for schools with sustainability programs.

“It tells them something about the character of the college, that it’s progressing in this way,” Voehl said. “That says a lot to a prospective student.”

Many of Augie’s sister schools have adopted similar policies and have major projects well under way, according to Matzner. Voehl says this gap between Augustana and similar schools is due to a lack of communication between students and administration. He calls the cycle a “waiting game.” Students wait to hear about opportunities to help, but administration understands their silence to mean disinterest.

“It seems like everyone on campus is waiting for someone else to start that change,” Voehl said.

Junior Olivia Hopewell, president of Augie Green, says that although sustainability “makes so much sense intuitively,” there has to be a feeling of responsibility on the part of both students and faculty.

“The problem isn’t that there’s no information. We just have to get people to care about it,” Hopewell said.

Matzner says students have plenty of reasons to care.

“I think it’s easy to be isolated when you’re a student at Augie, but your generation is inheriting the world that has a lot of problems,” Matzner said. “You should be educated on the issues because it’s your world.”

For philosophy professor David O’Hara, the issue extends beyond the direct effect sustainability will have on current students.

“We are the stewards of this world, not its permanent owners,” O’Hara said. “The world has been placed in our care, and it’s up to us to become good stewards and good ancestors.”

If students are interested in learning more about this topic, Augie Green meetings are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Siverson Lounge.