In front of an audience of nearly 40 student environmental advocates, Student Senate voted down a motion last Thursday to fund the purchase of eight additional recycling bins for academic buildings.
Senator Jenny Koska introduced a motion to use $2,247.04 of Senate’s Reserve Fund to pay for eight stainless steel recycling bins. Only 12 have been purchased, using facilities funds, and placed around campus. The Senate Reserve Fund includes $30,000 of excess student activity fees from previous years.
“We wanted to use the reserve fund for something proactive on campus,” Koska said.
The eight bins would be placed in Meredith Hall, the Knapp Center, Medbury Honors Lounge, Cline Hall, Olmsted Center Breezeway and lower Olmsted.
HOW THEY VOTED
Field, Koska, Krstulic, Miller, Valacheril
Cooper, Singh, Boggess, Carroll, Coe, Dick, Groetken, Gudmundson, Haas, Hutcheson, Larson, Lewandowski, Menendez, Olszewski, Wang, Yu
Tucker, Urick, Whitmer
WHY ASK SENATE FOR THE MONEY?
Mark Chambers, general manager of facility services, said Facilities exhausted the money allotted to its environmental budget for the year. The money went toward the 12 new recycling bins and renovations to accommodate new dumpsters for single-stream recycling.
Koska’s motion asked for the funding to purchase the remaining bins, recommended by facilities, “on an assessment of student traffic and waste accumulation.”
“The offer that was made was a good-faith offer,” Chambers said. “We didn’t ask them for the money. We were thinking of something that would help in our sustainability effort and it was brought up as an idea of how to spend their money.”
Student observers at Thursday’s meeting urged Senate to pass the motion. They asked senators to be mindful of their roles as representatives of Drake students and alluded to past problems with transparency and accountability.
“I know that a lot of you said in your campaign platforms that you want to become accountable as a senate,” sophomore Justine Ahle said. “This is your chance.”
Senior Zac Bales-Henry, one of the leaders fighting for the bins, called on Senate to live up to its responsibility to the student body.
“You have the ability to fundamentally change this campus,” he said. “You don’t understand the scope of your ability. You are the leadership. Take a stand.”
WHY DID SENATE DENY THE FUNDING?
Senators responded to the students’ comments by thanking them for their attendance and input. However, they explained that the funding of the new bins was not in the best interests of the students.
Treasurer Kyle Lewandowski urged students to challenge administration to pressure Facilities to pay for “capital improvements.” Lewandowski said the responsibility to provide these bins was the university’s, not the students.
“We all love recycling, this isn’t a question about supporting recycling,” Lewandowski said. “However, this is not the right way to go about it. This is a waste of our money. We need to defeat this tonight and work in a more productive manner to get these bins on campus.”
Senator Carla Olszewski said that Senate has already spent student funds on recycling in the past to convey to the university that recycling and sustainability are important to students.
“Why should student funds continue supporting it when it is not our responsibility to allocate for capital improvements?” she said. “We, as a Senate and student body, cannot keep caving in to the administration. Approving this motion would go against the oaths we took and the bylaws we operate under.”
Five senators voted to pass the motion. Senator Emily Krstulik encouraged senators to pass the motion to fulfill their duty to serve student interests.
“I understand it’s not our burden,” she said. “It will be eight bins – not like we’re flooding the campus. We can take a stand on this, and I feel like we want to send a message to students by passing this motion that we care about their interests.”
HOW DID ADVOCATES REACT TO THE MOTION’S FAILURE?
Senators also echoed concerns that the governing body was solely looked at as a wallet, rather than a body of persuasion and a liaison to the administration to voice student concerns. During the Speakers and Issues portion of the meeting, senators brainstormed how they could get the remaining bins without expending student funds.
“What we need to do now is move forward, to do something about it,” Senator Samantha Haas said. “We need to have members of the administration show up at this body to listen to our concerns.”
The motion failed, with 16 senators voting nay, five voting aye and three abstaining.
“While Student Senate does support the university’s recycling and ‘Blue is Green’ initiatives, the purchase of recycling bins using Student Activity Fees is not appropriate, as it is a university expense and obligation,” Student Body President Ben Olson wrote in an e-mail to Drake student leaders.
Koska said that she was disappointed the motion didn’t pass, but said she respects the opinions of her fellow senators.
“I’m not upset,” Koska said. “The other senators had their reasons for not passing the motion, and I had my reasons for bringing it to the table.”
Chambers said that Senate should have passed the motion to improve the entire Drake community, even if it isn’t their designated duty.
“It’s not my responsibility to clean vomit up in the dorms, but we do it anyway,” he said. “We know the vomit came from somebody who got drunk last night and couldn’t contain themselves. We’re a community and we try to do things as a community.”
Senator Megan Hutcheson said that Drake administration should pay for the bins because they affect the whole community.
“If it’s an all-university improvement, the university should pay for it, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?
The first motion to pass by a majority vote for the evening was a $5,000 one-time funding allocation for the Senior Etiquette Dinner. This motion, which will affect approximately 180 senior and second-year pharmacy students, passed with little or no discussion around the table.
Members of the audience who supported the recycling motion were shocked to see the allocation pass unanimously. However, Lewandowski said that it was important to understand the purpose of student activity fees and the criteria for using the funds.
“It differs from the recycling motion in that it is a one-time funding allocation that will come from student activity fees, rather than the reserve fund, and it’s an event for students, not a facilities issue like the recycling bins,” Lewandowski said.
Before last Thursday’s meeting, Vicky Payseur, Drake vice president of business & finance, sent Senate a letter supporting the motion. She wrote in the letter that she believed the Senate Reserve Fund was the most appropriate funding source for the additional eight recycling bins.
“With its passage, recycling bins will be located in most academic and administrative buildings on campus and these locations have been selected for the high traffic they receive,” Payseur wrote. “It is important for us to expand our campus recycling efforts. One of the best ways to expand is by making recycling convenient and easy for all Drake University students, staff and faculty.”
However, Senator Hutcheson said Payseur told some senators before the meeting that if the motion failed, Drake had money to pay for the bins.
Days after the Senate meeting, Payseur announced that Drake administration would, in fact, absorb the cost of the additional eight recycling bins, Payseur confirmed on Tuesday.
WHAT’S THE BIG PICTURE?
Bales-Henry said he doesn’t understand why Senate would spend time on the motion if they already knew Drake administration would pay for the bins if the motion didn’t pass.
“It’s amazing the amount of deception that’s going into this,” Bales-Henry said. “My major concern is, What does this say about Student Senate? Where exactly does Student Senate take a stance for the students? What responsibility do they have to us? Obviously, they handle our student fees, but if they’re not going to listen to the students and if they’re not going to allocate the funds where we feel they should be allocated, what purpose do they serve?”
On Tuesday morning, students woke up to find eight red signs posted around campus directed toward the Senate. Each sign read, “This represents a recycling bin that Student Senate felt was ‘unnecessary.’” It continued, “What is your purpose, Senate?”
Sophomore Matt Jurysta noticed that three signs were gone later that day – two outside Olmsted and one outside Cowles. Chambers said that no one in his department was involved or was ever given directions to take the signs down.
“We don’t know how or who did that,” Jurysta said. “We’re not blaming anyone, but this isn’t an adequate way of expressing your opinion on campus.”
Hutcheson said that, although she completely disagrees with the signs, she still feels students had the right to post them.
“Students are allowed to say whatever they want, but it’s hard for me to see those when I know I tried to make the best decision possible,” she said.
On Wednesday, Student Senate hosted a Sustainable Town Hall Meeting to “gather students’ opinions on appropriate ways to spend Student Activity Fees, especially in relation to capital improvements,” Olson wrote in an e-mail to student organizational presidents.
Video and updates regarding the meeting will be posted on The Times-Delphic Web site.