ASG creates committee to push green initiative

The Associated Student Government is forming a new committee solely focused on environmental change and sustainability at Northwestern – and working hard to make the committee itself sustainable.

Through a coalition with Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, ASG has worked to develop the Environmental Education Committee as its number one academic priority, ASG Academic Director Muhammad Safdari said. They officially sent out an application for a committee chairman Sunday with the hopes of finding an underclassman who can establish relationships and see the committee through for at least a year or two.

“We’re trying to find a chair because the problem is that it’s too much work for any one person to do,” Safdari said. “What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Why don’t students take the lead for now and evaluate the situation and propose possible solutions,’ and I think at that point we can move forward.”

The short-term focus of the committee is to develop a proposal with several alternative solutions to how students, faculty and administration can communicate more on environmental issues at NU, with a longer-term aim of creating more environmental classes.

“Our goal is to prioritize environmental academics and curriculum among the University’s curriculum and to make sure that we’re providing the best possible opportunity to NU students to have access to programs,” said Sam Eckland, SEED co-chairman.

According to the application, while the committee will “maintain warm relations with Weinberg, McCormick, Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern and other institutions on campus, it will remain independent of any of these groups.”

“I’m resisting having to work under faculty or administration, so that’s why this is different than what’s been done in the past,” Safdari said. “We want to make it representative of the student body.”

Still, he had a meeting with University Provost Daniel Linzer, and has reached out to Weinberg Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf and McCormick Dean Julio Ottino.

“The idea of the committee is to increase the efficiency of educational activities within NU,” Ottino wrote in an e-mail. “(There is) lots going on now, much more than, say, three to five years ago. Now is the time to unify.”

The committee will also focus more on the non-technical aspects like environmental policy, advocacy, law and economics.

“The environmental policy part is not really here yet as well as it could be, and that’s what we’re stressing,” Safdari said. “But the question is, do we have one mega environmental studies department? I think our committee is going … to come up with several alternative potential outcomes.”

Eckland said he hopes the new committee will eventually permeate throughout each of NU’s schools.

“We want to see the University prioritizing that academically, so the best and brightest of NU minds are given the best possible opportunity to confront the environmental issues that are going to be our generation’s biggest questions,” he said. “It’d be nice one day to see the Schapiro School for Environmental Studies.”

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