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SG Senate demands an Office of Sustainability at USF: ‘I want a promise’

A statement prepared by the SG Senate “highlights the current state of USF’s sustainability and climate action plan and its need for revisions.” ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Christian Chow Quan, vice-relations chair for the Student Government (SG) Senate Relations Committee, wrote a resolution last fall to implement an Office of Sustainability on all three USF campuses.

The document had to go through two checks and two voting sessions in fall before it was sent  through email Friday, Quan said.

The resolution was emailed to an extensive list of administrators, including USF President Rhea Law, the Board of Trustees and other Florida universities’ SGs.

At the time of publication, none of the USF departments have reached out in response to the statement, according to Quan.

The resolution calls on the university to create an Office of Sustainability, which would:

  • Employ a Sustainability Officer and staff on each USF campus
  • Direct and oversee the climate action plan
  • Create and maintain sustainability projects and a USF sustainability website
  • Direct other sustainability efforts relevant to USF

One of the Senate Relations Committee’s purposes is to write resolutions related to student issues that are brought to its attention, according to SG’s website.

USF St. Pete created its own Office of Sustainability and climate action plan in 2016, but Quan said the office is not in effect because it doesn’t have a ‘sustainability planner,’ or the designation given to the office’s director. 

“Their sustainability planner either retired or quit during COVID-19 and has not been replaced yet,” Quan said. “Even though St. Pete’s website says they do, none of the three campuses have a functioning office.”

The ‘sustainability planner’ role is “to be determined,” according to USF St. Pete’s website

Because other Florida universities such as ​​UCF, FSU and UF have Offices of Sustainability, Quan said the fact that USF doesn’t have one (on all three campuses) is a statement in itself.

Quan said he decided to write the resolution because he read the 2010 USF climate action plan and realized the promise of implementing an Office of Sustainability never came to fruition.

“The school promised in 2010 they would create an office that would be in charge of on-campus sustainability efforts, keep the climate plan updated, constantly reevaluate their goals and make sure that USF is moving towards sustainable initiatives,” Quan said.

A petition was recently written by Students Protecting the Environment and Animals through Knowledge (SPEAK) and Students for Socialism (SFS) demanding the establishment of an Office of Sustainability. Quan said that is all he expects from students at the moment.

 “We’re trying to go through all the proper procedures, so it’s not just students yelling and invading President Law’s office, for example,” Quan said.

Related: Painting to petition: Students demand an Office of Sustainability at USF Tampa campus.

If USF wants to commit to doing green initiatives and pushing sustainability on campus, Quan said there needs to be someone whose entire job is putting forward these projects.

“You can’t rely on students to do it because we are only here for a short period of time, four or five years maximum, and then we’re gone,” Quan said. “These are long-term initiatives that need continuity.”

A reasonable goal would be to have the office implemented by the start of the 2025-26 academic year, Quan said. 

However, Quan said he understands there will be the challenge of diverting a subset of USF’s funding to employ one full-time sustainability officer and a small team per campus.

“We should want the Office of Sustainability publicity and morally wise,” Quan said. “All of us live on this planet, so we need to do our best to save it and not damage it further than we’ve already had.”

Quan said the SG Senate doesn’t want to take any extreme actions at the moment because the school deserves the right to respond first.

“I only have one more semester at USF, so I don’t expect an Office of Sustainability to be put in place tomorrow,” Quan said. “I do want a promise, and I do want a date.”