Monday, June 11, 2012

Combining Eco-Reps with Resident Assistants

I recently read the blog post Eco-Reps: Changing Dorms, Changing Norms from the University of Arkansas Campus Sustainability office. Andrea, the posts author, explores the possibility of incorporating the responsibilities of Eco-Reps into the jobs of Resident Assistants within the residence halls. There are several potential problems with this idea.
  • Successful Eco-Rep programs are a great way to get freshman or transfer residents engaged in the campus community. Leadership roles are limited to freshman students and we should provide them ample opportunities to get involved so that the can find their niche on campus. That being said, if a university department cannot dedicate time or resources to an Eco-Rep program, then incorporating sustainability into the job duties of student leaders living in the halls is a good idea if it is supported by the administration within a residential life department.
  • As someone who has worked and lived in the halls for 3 years, the job responsibilities of an RA are not easy. From late night duty calls to the stress associated with living where you work, student leaders in the halls put in a lot of hours every week.  If a university were to add on an additional set of responsibilities to the position without an increase in compensation or adjustment of duties, many student leaders could view sustainability as one of the many things that falls under "all other duties as assigned". We do not want bitter or upset student leaders educating their peers on sustainability, since this could negatively impact the campus views and culture towards sustainability. Instead, we want those who are passionate about energy conservation, social equity, and many of the other topics that fall under sustainability. 
  • It is critical that sustainability education be incorporated into the training of student leaders so that they are well versed in the sustainability initiatives on a college campus. Such a presentation should be engaging and allow for questions from the audience, since many student leaders may not know what sustainability truly is. Student sustainability groups or university departments could also compile bulletin boards and educational materials promoting energy conservation, recycling, or other topics for student leaders to use. Student leaders working in the residence halls will be grateful for the prepared bulletin board and you can be assured that the messaging is consistent across campus.
What are your thoughts? Has anyone gave an educational presentation on sustainability to student leaders?

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