Letter to the Editor: Irony & Indifference: UWL’s Refusal to Prioritize Sustainability

Retrieved by explorelacrosse.com.

Retrieved by explorelacrosse.com.

Ryan Sperling, Guest Contributor

The towering facade of Grandad’s Bluff, the expansive scenery of the La Crosse River Marsh, and the historical beauty of the Mississippi River set La Crosse apart from any other area in Wisconsin. This biodiversity is what made me fall in love with the city. It is also why my heart breaks when University of Wisconsin-La Crosse administrators neglect its future.   

In 2007, Chancellor Joe Gow formalized a commitment to sustainability by forming the Joint Committee for Environmental Sustainability. Although the committee aims to improve sustainable action and environmental literacy on campus, many efforts have been delayed or curtailed because of a lack of centralized leadership.   

Surprisingly, UWL is only one of three UW schools without a sustainability coordinator or equivalent position. Even Western Technical College, also in La Crosse, has a sustainability coordinator. How can UWL expect prospective students to come to our school when they are so clearly behind their peers?  

Despite overwhelming student, faculty, and community support, University Administration has repeatedly shut down efforts to create a sustainability coordinator position. In explanation, many administrators cite the lack of budgetary resources. However, when looking at my tuition bill for this semester, I saw the irony in the stark differences between two segregated fees listed next to each other: $90.72 for the construction of the new Fieldhouse, and a mere $5.42 for “environmental sustainability,” which goes to Green Fund projects that are often limited by the lack of centralized leadership and may go abandoned after graduation as a result.   

It baffles my mind that we can somehow afford a $49,000,000 fieldhouse on a Division III campus with multiple existing athletic facilities, but there is not even $100,000 (including benefits) in the budget for a sustainability coordinator to help save this dying Earth.  

Despite the initial costs, hiring a sustainability coordinator would actually save UWL money in the long run by helping the University adapt to the push for clean energy and the effects of climate change, as well as by ensuring that the Green Fund Grant budget is utilized efficiently. Overall, I find UWL administrators’ budgetary argument unconvincing. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence in support of increased sustainability efforts and the future costs that will be accrued by not taking action, it is crucial that UWL hires a sustainability coordinator.  

As one of the leading employers, educators, and cultural centers in La Crosse County, UWL must take charge in local sustainability efforts. Hiring a sustainability coordinator would allow UWL to coordinate the development and management of a coherent campus-wide sustainability program, supervise student interns & employees, advise sustainability-related student groups, and be a more environmentally friendly campus overall. Time is of the essence, and as a student deeply concerned with sustainability on campus, I implore UWL administrators to act now. After all, how can UWL claim to care about our futures when there is a disregard for the future of our planet?   

Letters to the Editor do not reflect the beliefs or values of The Racquet Press.