First, let me go on the record and state that I respect the environment, and I am in total support of the recycling process.
As the former president of the Student Government Association, it was my responsibility to report to the Board of Visitors and President Rick Hurley what students want. Therefore, I often have to ask tough questions that help me further understand the problems students face on a day-to-day basis. These problems range from tuition costs, working with the community and local police departments and dining issues, just to name a few.
Recently, a number of students approached me asking why the “to-go boxes” in WOW had been unavailable for some time. After speaking with dining services, along with many other students, dining said they had found an alternative box that was recyclable and could be used for students who wanted to take their meals on the go. After I questioned their sustainability, at the senate’s request, I was assured that the current boxes are recyclable, but only if students remember to dump the food out before they recycle them.
Dining suggested that we begin to educate students on how to recycle so we could enhance sustainability at UMW. I asked if a more sustainable option had been considered and was assured that, as of right now, this was the best option dining had to offer, but they were open to more.
When discussing the motion that was on the table for the executive cabinet two weeks ago, I made it very clear that I agreed that the University should find more sustainable options for to-go containers and that it should be done as quickly as possible. In last week’s letter to the editor, Samantha Corron incorrectly summed up the executive cabinet’s arguments, neglecting the students in the room who agreed with her, but disagreed with the methods.
The executive cabinet agreed that the University should find more sustainable ways to allow students to take their meals to go. The disagreement stemmed from half the cabinet not being comfortable removing the status quo (plastic to-go boxes) before a new plan was put into place. The other half agreed with removing all to-go containers from the Nest, as the motion read. I summed it up in an analogy. If you want to buy a new car, why sell your old one months before you buy a new one?
As the SGA President, I had to be the voice for all students, even the ones that are not speaking the loudest. While students have put rude signs on my door and written me messages that are less than flattering, other students have stopped to have a positive dialogue with me about why they would prefer that a plan be put in place, before the status quo is removed. I understand both sides of the argument, but disagreed with the wording of the senate motion. For many students, even those committed to sustainability, removing every “to-go container” from the Nest seemed drastic, especially since no transition plan had been put in place or mentioned during discussion.
I write this to emphasize that, as the former SGA President, I have never articulated that I am against recycling or against saving the environment, but what I promised to do was to work with every student on this campus to ensure their voices are heard. I asked the tough questions because it was my job and an honor to do so.
The new executive cabinet, after much debate, passed the motion to remove to-go boxes from the Nest, and I hope they are able to work with the sustainability committee to find a quick solution that meets both the students needs and our sustainability goals.
Jeremy Thompson is a former SGA president.