Many colleges are encouraging staff, faculty and students to become “greener,” so the question still burning in everyone’s mind is: “Why is Yuba College being discouraged from having such a beneficial committee when, rather than asking the college for money, it offers ways to save money as well as improve and protect the environment?” Susan Ramones and Sandra Gonzalez are two of the dedicated members of the former Green Future Project team who are still searching for these answers.
The team had spent their two year charter creating The Green Sustainability Plan at the request of former Yuba College President, Paul Mendoza, who was fully supportive of Yuba College becoming more energy efficient and environmentally safe. The team was given an end goal of providing recommendations to the college president regarding which green concepts the college should consider promoting. Mendoza and the members were very excited and optimistic about the project, and had hopes that when the plan was complete the team would become a committee since the project was so in depth and would take years of ongoing effort to fully implement.
Many changes and improvements were made before the charter ended. A few examples are energy efficient lighting systems used in certain classrooms and offices, the Kill-A-Watt energy saver in Susan Ramones’ classroom, and the beginnings of a vegetable garden that was to be used to teach students how to grow healthier, organic food with less pesticides. The garden has begun to wither away since Betsy Julian, former chair-person of the project team, was laid off.
Yuba College has received awards for recycling a higher percentage of total waste than what is required. A student bus plan survey was completed by over 700 students and the results showed that over 50% of those students would ride the bus to cut down traffic and air pollution if there wasn’t a charge every time they boarded. No bus plan has been offered at this time.
The completed Green Sustainability Plan was very thorough and detailed, consisting of nine different categories that were considered important to Yuba College: Energy, Water, Land Use, Resources and Waste Management, Buildings, Transportation, Education and Curriculum, Community, and Decision Making. Each category had a variety of actions that could improve sustainability; there were short term, specific projects as well as long-term, institution wide changes. Some of the projects could be done by anyone in the Yuba College Community and some by only faculty, staff, maintenance, and/or administration.
By the time the plan was complete and committee status had been applied for, Paul Mendoza was no longer the president of Yuba College. On May 7, 2010 a letter to President Dr. Kay Adkins had been written and signed by seven of the team members stating that the project was complete, fulfilling the goal of the initial charter. The team requested that Adkins, as their sponsor, review the action plan and video and arrange for the team to formally present the plan and video to the College Council as well as the Board of trustees.
The letter also requested that they become a standing, full-time committee to be dedicated to overseeing the progress of the plan. They offered to, as a committee, organize many of the action plan items as well as encourage and motivate members of the college community to participate in various aspects of the plan, thus creating a “greener” college culture, reducing our carbon footprint, and saving the college money at the same time.
In the video “Sustainability- Ensuring A Bright Future” done by Mass Communications student Marcus Rainford last spring, Chancellor Nicki Harrington and Vice President Kevin Trutna were among the people proudly supporting different sustainability projects that were taking place on campus at the time, as well as discussing future sustainability by having LEED certified buildings built and remodeled with Measure J Bond money.
On September 1, 2010, Timothy May, Yuba College Academic Senate President mailed the Green Sustainability Plan to staff and faculty. On September 2, 2010 Dr. Adkins did a presentation on the plan in front of the Academic Senate, stating what a great job the team had done. If Harrington, Trutna, May, and Adkins had all openly and publicly supported this team and the work they had done, where did the big “no” come from when the team applied for committee status to ensure continuing work on their sustainability plan? Why did the request never reach the Board of Trustees?
When asked this question, Dr. Adkins responded by saying that the team was given a two year charter and had completed the project. She states, “The work they did was outstanding and phenomenal.” It was a nice compliment but didn’t give a clarifying answer to the question. After a few more questions to verify the various information given, Adkins was again asked why the team was denied the right to become a committee.
Adkins began this attempt by explaining that several different committees and user groups are currently implementing bits and pieces of the plan. She went on to discuss how George Parker, the Director of Facilities, is currently working on getting LEED certification on new buildings being built. That is a high ranked label stating places are energy efficient and offer sustainability. The new buildings will be placed in a way that takes advantage of as much natural lighting as possible, resulting in lower lighting and heating costs. It’s good to know things are being done and parts of the plan are being used, but again the question about this particular group becoming a committee was thwarted.
Adkins’ third and final response claimed, “It’s not necessarily that they were denied the right to be a committee, I just never received information regarding what the team hoped to accomplish by becoming a committee after their project was completed.” I was not surprised that the question was again danced around, but this response was the most interesting because the letter the team had sent to Adkins very clearly stated what they wanted, why they wanted it, and what responsibilities they would take if the request was approved. Apparently Adkins was not aware that this letter was thoroughly researched weeks ago.
Is this a case of administration not wanting more faculty driven committees out of fear that it could distract the faculty from things that are considered a higher priority? Is it just misunderstanding or miscommunication? Or team members getting caught up in irrelevant details?
After extensive time and research all we can do is speculate because the questions remain unanswered, hidden by politics and smokescreens. Moving on, the next important question to be asked is can we, as in students, staff, faculty and administration come together and participate more, to keep the budding green future of Yuba College from sinking into the mud?