Near the end of the 2017 fall semester, members of various sustainability-oriented clubs joined together in the battle of the acronyms. The newly formed Student Sustainability Coalition (SCC) formed in response to the Creation Care Council (CCC) meeting that left students on campus frustrated and unsatisfied with EMU’s position on improving sustainability practices on campus.
The SSC is a temporary group made of five different on-campus clubs that all share a general focus on sustainability. The clubs joined together are Earthkeepers, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), Coalition for Climate Justice (CCJ), Sustainable Food Initiative (SFI) and the Bike Club. The coalition is not an official club but rather a temporary “network” or “conduit” for the clubs participating. Through their shared interests and goals for the campus’ future, the groups have come together to collaborate and discuss plans for taking further action to voice the importance of implementing sustainability on campus.
The group’s genesis came following the December CCC meeting — a monthly meeting of staff, faculty and students to discuss and organize sustainability on campus. Student representatives at the meeting were underwhelmed with President Susan Schultz Huxman and the administration’s hesitancy to move forward with EMU’s Climate Action Plan, a plan that had laid out sustainability goals for which EMU should strive. In response to the meeting, the various sustainability-focused groups came together to form an email drive to Huxman. The emails were written individually but organized for students to share the importance of sustainable practices in their lives and on campus.
Currently, a large part of the coalition’s mission is to work alongside administration. “A big goal [is to be] in conversation with administration over sustainability and having administration commit to having a sustainable campus,” said coalition panel member Emma Yoder. The coalition holds a weekly or bi-weekly panel meeting to organize current discussion and then holds larger meetings open to all students who are a part of the clubs or simply want to be involved in the coalition. The SSC panel is comprised of six members: Aaron Dunmore, Michaela Mast, Ella Reist, Andy King, Emma Yoder, and Elizabeth Witmer. Many of them are leaders or representatives of the main clubs that make up the coalition.
Already in the first month of the semester, the coalition has been very active. Since the December meeting, the SSC has met with the CCC once more to discuss the future direction of the two groups. “We met with them to discuss the student sustainability coordinator position and possibly push for the climate action plan … It was really well received and they gave us advice on how to move forward with those,” said Yoder.
The coalition is also working to incorporate the student body through campus-wide events. The current events in discussion are a sustainability chapel followed by a student and administration campus march, as well as a photo drive giving students the opportunity to share the importance of sustainable practices in their lives.
In addition to the proposed events, the coalition is also organizing fundraising to construct a new solar array on campus, a project to which EMU had previously committed before running into financial trouble. The work regarding the solar array is not the coalition’s main purpose, but it is an opportunity for the group to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability on campus. “[This] is how we’re demonstrating how much sustainability means to us: by raising this money and by offering to put our time into [assembling the array],” said Witmer.
The future of the coalition remains uncertain, but it will remain active throughout the semester. “Currently, since we are in conversation with administration, at least this semester, we’re going to be fairly active,” said King. After the work this semester, the coalition might be brought around when necessary, organizing the groups into collaborative discussion.