Environmental House under consideration for next year
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:11
The Sustainable Action Squad (SAS), a branch of the Tufts Sustainability Collective, is currently working on a proposal for the creation of an Environmental House on campus for the upcoming academic year.
The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) is awaiting the group’s final proposal, at which point ORLL Director Yolanda King will invite SAS members to a session with a small group housing committee, during which a decision will be made, King said.
The committee will consist of an ORLL staff member, a Division of Student Affairs staff member and a Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator, King said.
Seniors Rose Eilenberg and Danielle Jenkins, both members of SAS, began discussions with the ORLL last fall, and SAS has officially taken on the project this semester.
Tufts offers 15 Special Interest Houses or apartment units on campus, such as the Africana House, International House and Arts Haus. The university also owns a number of wood−frame on−campus small group living options, like 12 Dearborn Rd., that are unaffiliated with a special interest theme.
Eilenberg said that the Environmental House would likely host student group meetings in its common room, screen films and grow a garden and a compost.
“I think that the Tufts environmental movement in general needs a space,” Elizabeth Slocum, a freshman who hopes to live in the house, said.
King explained that one of the biggest challenges in creating a new Special Interest House is proving that there will be stable student interest year to year.
However, Jenkins said she is confident that most students support the introduction of an Environmental House.
In an online survey conducted this month, 71 students said that they would live in the house, and 50 said maybe, according to Jenkins. In a separate question, 141 of 148 respondents said they would support the creation of an Environmental House as of Oct. 29.
“We have about 35 [environmental studies] majors a year, and we expect that to grow,” Director of the Environmental Studies Program Colin Orians, who submitted a letter of support for the proposal, said.
The Environmental House will likely first be established as an apartment unit, Eilenberg said, but SAS hopes to secure an actual house soon. King said that she would consider converting 12 Dearborn Rd. into the Environmental House.
“[Special Interest Houses] don’t work as well when they are a hallway within a larger dormitory or a suite within an apartment complex,” Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman added.
In the past, Tufts has tried to keep some small group wood−frame homes without a theme affiliation to provide options for students whose parents prohibit off−campus living, Reitman said.
“[The TCU Senate has] expressed a desire to keep an option of un−themed smaller buildings part of the repertoire,” Reitman said.
Eilenberg believes that the creation of an Environmental House is in the interest of the university in order to stay competitive with peer institutions.
“[University President Anthony] Monaco has made it clear that that [the environment] is a very important issue to him,” she said.
The most recent version of the proposal states, “Of the 108 four−year institutions rated by [the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System], which includes Tufts, 67 have an environmental house, apartment or residential building.”
At the third meeting between ORLL and SAS last Friday, King made minor suggestions to the proposal, according to Eilenberg and King.
“The students have done a great job putting the proposal together,” King said.
Eilenberg said she had the idea to start the project in 2010, when she discovered that her residence, 12 Dearborn Rd., had been an Environmental House at Tufts in the ’80s.
Reitman believes that the original Environmental House may have disappeared due to a decline in the demand for eco−friendly living, pointing to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified Sophia Gordon Hall, which was completed in 2006.
“The eco−house was one of the few places that was probably first in recycling,” Reitman said. “Now pretty much all of society does it, but Tufts is very into it, and so it wouldn’t be as unique as it used to be, and that’s probably why one of the reasons the need for it is diminished.”