Sustainability excluded from Mills plans

December 7, 2017 Opinion
Photo courtesy of Rollins Flickr.

Rollins recently revealed its plans for a deep renovation of the Mills Memorial building. The goal of these renovations is to have “student spaces and student activity visible as soon as one walks in the door,” states Melissa Burns, an architect who is familiar with the goals of Rollins College.

The college and architects want to push forth a mission-driven and student-oriented space on campus, which is a great step forward in showcasing the results of the collaboration among students and faculty. However, the plans for the space completely exclude a prominent student-run program: the Sustainability Program.

There is no better example of a group that follows these ideals than the Rollins Sustainability Program, which is student-run and addresses campus-wide infrastructure to develop change.

Although the work of the Sustainability Program is often confused with that of EcoRollins, it is important to note that the Sustainability Program is not a student organization; the program does not receive money from Fox Funds or have members.

Rather, the Sustainability Program operates more similarly to an office on campus. The students who run it are paid employees of the school, and the program receives a nominal operating budget.

Since its inception in 1999, students have been at the core of sustainability changes on campus including developing and running the Urban Farm, free bike share program, elimination of plastic grocery bags, Fair Trade certification, recycling program, and more.

The student employees collaborate heavily with other on-campus departments such as Facilities, Dining Services, and Residential Life.

This small but mighty group has been responsible for making such impactful changes and is always encouraged—and often expected—to do more.

As of now, there is not a permanent space for the Sustainability Program, or any sustainability-oriented groups, in the proposed Mills renovation plans. If we are to be integrating sustainability into the entire institution, then it is only fair that the renovations include a space for the Sustainability Program.

In the current realm of higher education, prospective students and donors are always looking for campuses going above and beyond to improve their environmental footprint. To stay competitive, Rollins needs to showcase the work that the Sustainability Program does.

We ask not necessarily for a specific Rollins Sustainability Program space in the new Mills building, but rather a broader sustainability space, which would allow collaboration on related issues.

If there was to be a “Sustainability Space” in the form of an open conference room similar to the plans for the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub, groups including Net Impact, EcoRollins, and the Divestment Coalition could hold brainstorming sessions for their meetings.

Furthermore, students working on sustainability projects across majors could have a space to work. We could display monitors with the energy and water savings the school has made through technological innovation. Professors could discuss their research on environmental issues. The space could be multifaceted, multipurpose, and collaborative.

We encourage Rollins College to show its commitment to sustainability on campus. 

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