SGA votes on ACLU conference funding, hears about campus sustainability project

On Sept. 15, the Student Government Association senate assembled to discuss a bill allowing senate representatives to go to an American Civil Liberties Union event. They also heard a presentation from the director of sustainability about the UCCS Office of Sustainability’s role and plans for campus.

ACLU bill

Senate Bill SB-03 passed with an overwhelming majority vote that put aside $2,150 for eight SGA representatives to attend the ACLU event hosted in Denver next week. The expenditure will cover the cost of the tickets for the event as well as transportation to Denver. The event’s purpose is to recognize individuals and organizations who have protected the civil rights and liberties of Coloradans.

Senator Isabella Polombo, one of the bill’s authors, wants to go to the event to learn about civil liberties with the hope of using that knowledge to help the student government and UCCS as a whole. “I genuinely believe this event would be helpful for us as a group,” Polombo said.

Polombo said her strategy will be to report what the attendees learn to the rest of the senate and find a way to dispense the information to students across campus with the help of other organizations.

Senator Samrawit Kopessa, another author of the bill, mentioned the representatives’ goal to network with individuals with experience in civil rights and liberties. Kopessa hopes this will help the senate in writing future legislation to protect students’ civil rights at UCCS.

While the authors seemed assured this event would help the senate and UCCS, other senate members were not. A few members noted their worry about the lack of a plan to implement information from the event to help UCCS.

Senator Amanda Ford, who plans to attend the event, addressed that worry by saying the only way to create effective legislation for students is “by educating ourselves and making sure that we are ensuring civil liberties of students on campus.”

Sustainability presentation

The director of sustainability, Konrad Schlarbaum, explained to SGA the Office of Sustainability’s role. The office works in various areas, ranging from operations to academics and projects involving the community.

The office implements sustainable development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of each generation and their needs … so we will be trying to prepare the college for the needs and challenges of students here,” according to Schlarbaum.

Recently, the office took on an energy and performance contract looking to invest between $12 to $20 million into water and energy. The ongoing project will last for the next three years and includes infrastructure improvements and a behavior management campaign that will inform staff and students on how they can maximize these technologies.

“We can have fully efficient and the latest technology installed, but if we don’t use that technology the way it’s designed, then we don’t need to invest into it. It won’t work as designed. It won’t maximize what we can gain from it,” Schlarbaum said.

“And so, we’re looking at it from a behavior perspective, we’re looking at it from a systems operating perspective, and we’re looking at it from a renewable energy perspective,” he said.

Schlarbaum wants to encourage student involvement with the office, saying he’s looking to “integrate or invite students into everything that we do at the Office of Sustainability. It’s almost not successful without the presence of students in it.”

A framework called Sustainable Tracking Assessment & Rating System guides the office’s action. STARS is a comprehensive system that involves more than the environment, according to Schlarbaum. He explained that sustainability has three pillars: social, financial and environmental.

“You can’t really call something sustainable unless it has met the criteria of all three of those pillars,” Schlarbaum said.

The social pillar looks at social equity and ensures students have the same opportunity. It meets the basic needs of housing, transportation, and food. The financial pillar “keeps the costs in check” and makes sure things are affordable, while the environmental pillar ensures the campus is as eco-friendly as possible.

“Environmentally speaking, our very existence depends on the health of the environment, so whatever we do we have to think about our impact on the environment,” Schlarbaum said.

UCCS SGA Senate meeting in Berger Hall. Photo by Meghan Germain.