The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is looking into hiring a sustainability coordinator for the campus, after an increase in demand from students.
La Crosse is one of only three campuses in the UW System that does not have a sustainability position. The other two are UW-Stout and UW-Platteville.
According to UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow, the university “continues to investigate ways to fund a full-time sustainability coordinator.”
The position has been advocated for by different groups for over 10 years. In the 2018-2019 school year, the UW-L organization Students for Sustainability (SFS) circulated a petition to show student support for a sustainability coordinator, which received around 25% of the student population’s signatures.
SFS went on to meet with Gow, as well as the vice chancellor, chancellor of student affairs, and the provost. They all cited budget concerns with funding the position.
“Obviously student voices and the lack of sustainability on campus does not carry enough weight to be prioritized by UW-L administration,” SFS member Veronica Sannes said.
Sannes went on to explain that the position is crucial for the campus.
“Having a sustainability coordinator would show that UW-L actually cares about sustainability,” Sannes said. “There are many areas that UW-L is lacking in sustainability measures that a coordinator could begin to address.”
Missy Nergard is the director of sustainability at UW-Madison. She explained that the position doesn’t just focus on sustainability at the university level, it also focuses on education and research to help the community.
“Initial campus efforts on recycling and energy efficiency were labeled as sustainability, but were too narrow to make much of a difference.” Nergard said. “Our mission in higher education is centered on education and research so that’s our first priority.”
Nergard listed three reasons that the position is important to have on a campus: Employer demand, student demand and responsibility.
“Generation Z is overwhelmingly prioritizing sustainability as a deciding factor in where they want to attend college,” Nergard explained. “The world that our students are going to live in for the next 50 years is significantly different from the world we lived in for the last 50. They need to be prepared, fierce, critical thinkers.”