Last week members of the Sentara Green Roof Steering Committee approached the Student Assembly for a start-up grant of $10,000 for its energy sustainability initiative. If granted, this money would help fund a $200,000 green roof that could potentially cut the hospital’s energy spending by $50,000 per year. A contribution from the SA would jumpstart the project by spurring donations from other parties and would increase the internship and research opportunities Sentara offers to students.
It should be no surprise that the Sentara Hospital Health Act sponsored by Sens. Michael Douglass ’11 and Steven Nelson ’10 was not passed and sent back to committee. While the SA has over $100,000 in consolidated reserves, it is not the SA’s duty to fund community projects.
Yes, it is hard to say no to such a proposal because denying funding to Sentara would essentially deny our dedication to environmental sustainability, but I urge supporters of the bill not to be quick to cry hypocrisy. It is the SA’s responsibility to act in the interest of the student body. The money the SA has in reserves is potential funding for student organizations and activities, such as UCAB and Student Environmental Action Coalition. Fostering a positive relationship between students and the community is not a good enough reason to drop 10 grand in student funds.
There are many other ways to build a positive relationship between the community and students for free or at least at a lesser cost. We should not let Sentara bribe us with internships and good publicity. To consider the donation as a way to achieve these goals is to imply that College students will be penalized if the donation is not made. Our equal respect and treatment within the community is deserved through the service and time dedicated by almost every College student, not through the fiscal decisions of a small body of students.
Let us not forgot that last year the College received a “D-” in sustainability from the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The installments of green fees, would better equip SEAC and the College to tackle the ongoing issue of environmental sustainability. According to previous Flat Hat reports, the College currently spends $6 million per year on energy.
It takes a lot more than going trayless at the Caf and using a mug at the Daily Grind to cut back on our negative environmental impact. The compost tumbler and organic garden behind the Caf are small steps in reversing decades’ worth of waste. We must focus on solving our own internal energy problems before we can effectively tackle someone else’s.
In light of recent state-wide financial cuts, the College is already on a tight budget. In Interim President Taylor Reveley’s report to the Board of Visitors last week, he expressed his financial concerns for the College. Money, as Reveley metaphorically stated, is the food and water of the College.
Although the finances referred to in his address are not the same funds that would be given to Sentara, it is clear that we have little to spare. The College’s environmental sustainability, not Sentara’s, should be the number one priority of the SA.
We cannot be expected to sustain another until we can survive on our own.
Joanna Sandager is a freshman at the College.