New sustainability manager to be appointed by winter

October 30, 2014

Brandeis will soon begin searching for a manager of sustainability programs on campus, according to university spokesman William Schaller. The manager will be a full-time employee and will work for the new executive director of facilities.

According to an email sent by Schaller to The Brandeis Hoot, the new manager will “coordinate the efforts of groups on campus to maximize sustainability activities, further carbon footprint reductions and correspondent energy and waste expense savings to Brandeis.” James Gray, Brandeis’ vice president of operations, will lead the search to fill the position. He has formed a committee of Brandeis students and faculty to assist in the process of screening candidates’ resumes and interviewing candidates.

This comes in the wake of weeks of complaints from students about a seeming lack of action on sustainability issues on the part of the administration. “Students have an important role in promoting and ensuring sustainability on campus,” wrote Gray in an email. “The selection process will involve mostly the committee and myself, but I am always happy to hear other input from students or other members of the community.” Neither Gray nor Schaller specified whether or not complaints from student groups such as Students for Environmental Action (SEA) affected the decision to create the position of sustainability manager. “My hope is we have a great deal more progress in our future, and I embrace the leadership and assistance of the student body and faculty in helping us make that happen together,” wrote Gray.

The committee includes Tim Touchette from the Department of Community Living, Mary Sharrigan and Bill Bushey from Brandeis’ facilities department, Professor Laura Goldin (ENVS) and students Anna Bessendorf ’15 and Sophie Freije ’17. Student Union President Sneha Walia ’15 was also consulted.

Bessendorf, who is the founder and chair of the Brandeis Sustainability Committee in the Student Union, told The Hoot in an interview that she has high hopes for the process. “Right now we are still working to clarify what the sustainability manager’s exact responsibilities will be,” Bessendorf said. “But the speed with which Jim Gray has been working shows real commitment to making actual progress.” Bessendorf has been passionate about sustainability on campus since her first year, and has sat on the board of SEA, in addition to heading the Sustainability Committee and helping to promote the Brandeis Sustainability Fund within the senate.

Once the details of the positions are finalized, Brandeis will publicize the position, which will hopefully draw qualified candidates for screening, said Bessendorf. This will be in tandem with active efforts by the university to find additional candidates.

The new sustainability manager will also do significant work on projects and issues originally highlighted by students. One of the most principal of these is the issue of campus infrastructure, specifically the inefficient use of energy by buildings and appliances at Brandeis. Past student-led initiatives have included the installation of water-saving shower heads and toilets in student housing and the promotion of long-lasting LED lightbulbs across campus. Bessendorf has also pushed consistently for new buildings on campus to focus on practical uses of electricity and other resources.

More than anything, Bessendorf hopes that the hiring of a sustainability manager will finally allow for significant progress to be made on campus. The desire for larger pushes in this area has been echoed many times by other students, including a group of Brandeis students who traveled to New York City this September in order to attend mass climate marches. “I think [the creation of the new position] shows that the administration is definitely taking the issue seriously,” said Bessendorf. “The work is never really over, but this is really encouraging.”

According to Schaller, the administration hopes to fill the position by the winter. In the meantime, Gray encourages students to continue to bring complaints to the administration and make their voices heard. Bessendorf recommends contacting her with specific questions and encouraged students to attend meetings held by SEA and other activist groups.

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