Student Association discusses strategic planning and sustainability at UWL

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Luis Acosta Jr., Student Government Reporter

The Student Association at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse met on Wednesday, Dec. 4 to meet with Dr. Kate Parker, Special Assistant to the Provost, Strategic Planning. They also met four new student court justices and discussed what Green Fund representatives Mitch Bunting and Logan Furniss have been working on and what they envision for the future of the program.

Dr. Parker, who is also an Associate Professor in the English Department at UWL, updated the senate on the strategic planning project at UWL. Parker has worked as the strategic planner for a year and a half but is departing from the role in Spring 2020 as she is taking a sabbatical. She said she believes it is necessary to initiate someone who may take on the position permanently after her departure.

Parker said that she is not a professional planner, and after she steps down the program is set to move into a different phase, which Parker called “plan let’s not.” She explained this as not having just anybody fill the position and instead finding an appropriate candidate trained to value innovation for UWL.

She described the position as an “eye in the sky” role, where the strategic planner would not necessary be in charge of anyone but would ensure programs are as productive as possible. Parker said that when there is nobody in this role, “accountability becomes skewed.” Parker said that she believes it would be inappropriate to place the responsibilities of a strategic planner on a faculty member, program, or office that is already involved in their own projects.

Between January and February, Parker will return to the student senate with a full report to pinpoint areas that should be held as a top priority for the senate to think about in future hearings.

Sophomore communication studies student Rachel Meihock attended the meeting to discuss UWL’s role in sustainability and climate change. Meihock said that for a class project, she had to come up with a sustainability solution that could be presented, and her presentation to the senate was a result of her project.

Meihock presented “shocking facts” around sustainability at UWL, saying that 239 tons of paper and cardboard were recycled, based on metrics from the latest sustainability report in 2013. Meihock said this high number stems from many sources, but mainly from professors and departments “willy-nilly printing so much paper, to be blunt.”

She said that in August 2019, the entire fourth floor of Centennial Hall, which includes the Communication Studies Department, the Environmental Studies Department, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, and the Philosophy Department, printed 1,792 pieces of paper.

Meihock also said that the Admissions Office sends out 45,000 letterheads each year, a process which President Agterberg said should be remodeled in years to come, as the admissions office has considered allowing admitted students to pick between paperless or paper versions of acceptance letters.

Meihock said she believes there should be a cap put in place on how much paper can be printed, not only for professors but for departments in general. She said she understands the different needs depending on the college, who may print more based on what is being taught, but that all she asks for is for awareness of the problem and to be able to communicate these issues.  “When you are aware, steps can then be made towards these problems,” said Meihock.

According to Meihock, if this policy were to be set in place, it would target both the financial and environmental issues on campus. She said that $250,000 is spent annually on paper at UWL. “There are no monetary costs, only monetary rewards to this idea,” said Meihock.

Mitch Bunting and Logan Furniss from the Green Fund attended the meeting to introduce their initiative to provide low emission LED lights for the Recreational Eagle Center, the Veterans Memorial Walkway and Laux Hall, in addition to environmentally efficient portable lights for UWL events.

Some senators expressed skepticism of the efficiency of these lights, especially considering their overall cost, but Sen. Erickson from Students for Sustainability said that these are for creating a minimal carbon footprint, which he said should be the first thing that comes to mind when they think of implementing new lights.

Sen. Myers expressed his frustration with the university with sustainability, as he’s noticed how difficult UWL has made it for there to be immediate action on sustainability. He called into question how the remodeling of White Hall will need a grant in order to have LED lights put into place, which would take longer than simply placing the lights in the dorms now as they are being rebuilt.

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