Emails confirm administrator overruled students on six applications for renewable energy projects

Lewis & Clark has been nationally recognized for sustainability efforts on its campus. Photo courtesy of Public Affairs & Communications

By Caleb Diehl /// Editor-in-Chief

If students on the green fee fund committee took home any lessons from spring semester, it’s that one administrator can wield awe-inspiring power. Made up entirely of students, the committee voiced support for using student money to fund eight student projects focused on renewable energy. Presented with the applications, Vice President for Business and Finance Carl Vance struck down six.

Emails from Vance obtained by The Pioneer Log confirm the details in both the letter and petition. He gave little explanation except that the guidelines set by administrators for the fee were confusing.

He’s not the only one who was confused. Vance not only vetoed most of the applications, but took longer than expected to do so. In essay-length emails to Vance, Student Sustainability Coordinator Sam Alexander (’16) expressed repeated frustration. “Students face impending deadlines and it is time for them to have a solid answer,” he wrote on May 11. Vance emailed his final decision on May 21.

Aside from the applications, Vance denied funding to the student sustainability coordinator, a key position on the green fee committee. He also killed the committee’s efforts to fund a five-year purchase of renewable energy. Though Lewis & Clark will continue to run its buildings entirely off renewable energy next year, Vance’s decision could endanger efforts to do the same in the future.

“Both our committee’s attempts to fund the long-term five-year purchase of renewable energy, and our attempt to fund the Student Sustainability Coordinator position for this same time period were unequivocally shot down,” Alexander said. “The ‘journey forward’ seems to be irrelevant for an administrator seeking immediate control of student money.”

Vance gave money to a student interning at the Grand Canyon Trust over the summer, and to two students for research in Myanmar. He struck down the rest:

  • The Presentation of Renewable Energy Research at an AESS Conference ($1,039)
  • A Student Summer Internship with the Sierra Club ($3,000)
  • A Student Summer Internship with Groundwork Portland for ($3,500)
  • The installation of a Rainwater Collection System and Composter at the Forest Green House by the LC Garden Collective for ($8,607)
  • Funding for the Student Sustainability Coordinator
  • The Development of a Climate Change Curriculum for ($1,715)

Vance was in meetings Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, the green fee committee fired off an open letter to Vance, along with a petition calling for releasing the funds back to students right away. It gathered more than 90 signatures in its first hour online.

“Sign it to reaffirm to Dark Lord Vance and school administration that you would like to designate where your money goes, please and thank you,” Sam Kumasaka (’16), a member of the green fee committee, wrote on Facebook.

In their petition, students on the green fee committee took offense that Vance didn’t trust them to do their jobs. “If there is a lack of trust in our ability, as students, to allocate our own money,” they wrote, “that needs to be something that is stated outright.”

Edited at 10:10 p.m. June 3 to reflect the following correction: The sixth rejected project was not listed in our original article. “Funding for a Student Sustainability Coordinator” has been added to the list. 

Edited June 10 to reflect the following correction: Lewis & Clark will, in fact, run entirely on renewable energy next year, though it might not in subsequent years. 

Caleb Diehl is Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer Log. His work has also appeared in Portland Monthly magazine, Oregon Live, the Lewis & Clark School of Education and Counseling Website, the LC Journal for Social Justice and The Park Record. Follow him on twitter @calebsdiehl

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    • Also, the current article doesn’t include the following update:

      On June 4, 2014, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez announced that five additional projects would be funded out of respect for the students, the quality of their proposals, and the good intentions with which they prepared and submitted their projects.

      The funding for these projects is not coming from the green fee but, instead, from contingency money in the Provost’s Office and Student Life Division. This decision was made to avoid setting a precedent for allocation of the green fee fund and to allow time and space to resolve the issue of how the fund is to be used in the future.

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