Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Progressive BC news!


I. The ACE League no more?!?

II. BC alum and local activist hired as “Coordinator of Ecological Sustainability Education”

III. BC’s “Sustainability and Environmental Studies” (SENS) Program to host ground-breaking conference in April, 2006

IV. The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) hosts its winter National Council meeting at BC

V. “Governance Conversations at BC”

VI. BC Alum Jessica Richardson TESTIFIES about the importance of a Progressive Alum network!

I. ACE League

Check out the below note from SA Throop, current President of ACE League. For those of us who cut our student activist teeth organizing w/ the ACE League, this statement is ill-received. I was involved w/ ACE League when it worked for passage of a BC non-discrimination clause that included sexual orientation, and participated loosely in ACE League during my final two semesters as a BC student. But in all honesty, I found a few of the key personalities in the group to be somewhat “toxic,” creating a very clique-ish and uninviting atmosphere. This atmosphere no doubt contributed to the group’s demise. Alas, student-based organizing often experiences such ebbs and flows, so hopefully ACE League will be revived in some form or another in the future.

From: SA Throop

Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 9:24 AM

Subject: RE: Some notes on ACE League

(Please feel free to forward this to any mailing lists that might be interested. In fact, I'd appreciate it if you would.)

Hello all. I'd like to inform you of the decisions those attending our discussion last week came to.

After more than ten years of activism and community-building on the Berea College campus, we, the members of ACE League, have determined that our organization as it stands no longer reflects the needs or wants of the community it was created to serve. ACE has also fulfilled its original purpose, that of lobbying for an inclusive non-descrimination compact at Berea College and working towards domestic partner benefits regardless of sexual orientation for faculty and staff.

It is our intention that ACE League be closed on a positive note, that it may be remembered as an organization of great vision and accomplishments. Therefore, we ask to be added to the inactive section of Campus Life's Club and Organization files, effective immediately, 20 February 2006.

This is the letter I submitted to Campus Life this morning. The secondary decision we all came to was that, after ACE is officially closed, we will gather togather on Wednesday, 22 Feb, at 9PM in the Barton Room to work on creating a constitution for the new organization we want to put together, the Berea College Gay-Straight Alliance. To do this, we need your help and input, if you are interested in being a part of this new organization. Also, once we get our feet off the ground, we will create a new mailing list based on those interested and those who attend our meetings, so this one will be disabled. Please let me know if you'd like to be on this new mailing list.

One last thing: to say goodbye to ACE, we are going to have a farewell dinner in March. The planning of this will start at Wednesday's meeting, so come and help out!

Thanks everyone. If you have questions, please feel free to email me and I will do my best to answer them. SA Throop, ACE League President

II. BC’s new Sustainability Coordinator

Thanks to a pretty sizable corporate (Dupont) grant that BC received to further its sustainability efforts, a new office has been created on campus, the Office of Ecological Sustainability Education. In a pretty widely-anticipated decision, BC alum and former assistant to President Shinn, Tammy Clemons, was hired on a few weeks ago as the new coordinator of this office. The good news is that, in my opinion at least, Tammy is an excellent choice for the position. Aside from solid academic credentials, Tammy has been very actively involved in both BC and community sustainability initiatives for quite some time, including the MERJ Market (http://www.geocities.com/merjmkt/) and the BC Local Foods Initiative (http://www.berea.edu/localfoodinitiative/). I’m currently taking an “Eco-feminism” class w/ Tammy and think she is an ideal choice for the position.

Further, the creation of this office appears to be furthering the initial goals of the SENS Program, which was to integrate sustainability efforts campus-wide rather than simply relegating sustainability to an academic department. With only 3 faculty (albeit very capable faculty), SENS has appeared pretty overwhelmed in recent months just handling the SENS-related coursework and overseeing the Eco-Village. So while the creation of this new office is definitely a positive development, what I’m still in the dark about is its connection (or lack thereof?) to the SENS Program as a whole.

For more information about the Office of Ecological Sustainability Education and Tammy Clemons, check out: http://www.berea.edu/ese.

III. April 2006 SENS Conference

This conference is one of the things that’s keeping me in Berea for an extra few months. I’m working part-time under Richard Olson as the primary conference organizer. I think we’ve got a pretty good agenda put together for the conference, now we just need to make sure people turn up for it. That’s (hopefully) where you come in…

Please share with your networks:


Campus-Community Partnerships for Sustainability Conference

April 21 - 23, 2006

Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

"Campus – Community Partnerships for Sustainability" will bring together college students, faculty and staff, and townspeople from throughout Kentucky and the surrounding region. In the face of global challenges, colleges and towns can work together to create sustainable local and regional economies and communities. At the conference, presentations and poster sessions will be combined with discussion groups and hands-on workshops to give participants the knowledge, skills, and contacts they need to make their campuses and communities more sustainable. Workshop themes include local food systems, transportation, energy, green buildings and green landscapes, and campus–community curricula, among others.

Speakers include Pat Murphy of "The Community Solution," and Michael Shuman, author of "Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age."

Co-sponsors include Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Centre College, Eastern Kentucky University Environmental Research Institute, Hazard Community & Technical College, Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest, Berea Outpost, Community Farm Alliance, Envision Franklin County, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Heartwood, Kentucky Jobs with Justice, Kentucky Sierra Club, Kentucky Solar Partnership, Louisville Peak Oil Group, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Partners for Family Farms, Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, and the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture.

For further information: www.berea.edu/sens/ccp

E-mail: sens@berea.edu

Phone: 859-985-3593



Last weekend the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) hosted its annual Winter National Council meeting at BC. The meeting was small, reflecting the overall rough shape that SEAC is in at the moment. But it seemed to be a good event, w/ logistics ably managed by Danielle Capillo and the HEAL crew, and a pretty awesome “solidarity panel” including mountain justice activists and a representative from the student-farmworker alliance, among others. For more details about the NC meeting, and to support SEAC financially (the youth-student movement as a whole could really use your $$$ right now, folks), go to: http://www.seac.org/.

V. Governance Conversations at BC

This excerpt is from a recent “Presidents Report” by Larry Shinn:

“Since more than half of Berea's employees are not part of either the College or General Faculties, I thought it important to share the status of current governance discussions in the two faculties that would affect all employees. The current governance system has one group, the College Faculty, who is responsible for most curricular and academic matters. It is made up mostly of teaching faculty and a number of academic and other administrators and staff. The second group, the General Faculty, is made up of all commissioned members of the College Faculty as well as those administrators and staff who are commissioned. Since commissioning is directly connected to who gets to be a member of the General Faculty and commissioning is currently not open to all employees, many employees are excluded from direct participation (whether formal voice or vote) in the current General Faculty. The Executive Council has been working for two years on a set of proposals that are now working their way through the two faculties. The early proposals passed in late 2005 faculty meetings sought to streamline

Berea's committee structure by making adjustments to current standing committees. What is currently before the two faculties are three proposals that would make all employees eligible to serve on committees and/or the General Faculty. To make this possible, the three major governance proposals before the faculties are (1) to end the connection of commissioning to voting in the General Faculty (and to then revisit commissioning as something that would be open to all employees or would end altogether); (2) to alter the voting membership of both the College and General Faculties; and (3) to create a Staff Forum where all staff minus teaching faculty would meet every couple of months to discuss their issues and concerns and/or issues before one of the governance faculties. The Executive Council has asked Diane Kerby and Carolyn Castle to create a trial "Staff Gathering" and invite all employees minus the teaching faculty to attend. That Staff Gathering will occur in early March and the two primary agenda items will be (1) healthcare insurance and other options now under consideration to keep costs low and benefits high; and (2) the usefulness of a staff gathering or forum for those who are not members of one of the two faculties. Please come to that Staff Gathering to make your voice heard in discussions about both healthcare and the governance proposals, including the Staff Forum. People Services will announce the date, time, and location of the Staff Gathering as soon as they have been determined.”


Quote from recent correspondence w/ Jessica Richardson:

“I was reading a news article in the Asheville Citizen-Times this morning about
Mars College, and the student group "GLBT" group was not permitted to become an official school organization because they were fearful of losing money from super-obnoxiously conservative donors, and were unsure because of their Christian association.

I immediately thought about how Berea students struggled to add an amendment saying that people could not be discriminated based on sexual orientation- And if Berea is not a Christian oriented school, I wasn't a student there. So, it made me realize that not only would it be good to remain connected with student organizations at Berea that rock, but also be able to connect student groups with each other when I learn of news like what came from Mars Hill. yeah, so, what can else can I do to get this started?”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Progressive Alums

The Associated Press recently reported that the President of the Un of Richmond, William Cooper, was pressured into resigning early because he made some comments that students and alums of the school found offensive. These students and alums combined forces with the University faculty and began a full-scale campaign against Cooper--complete with a website, online petition, and anti-Cooper paraphernalia (http://www.firecooper.com/main.html).

Reading about this campaign I was reminded of efforts by a group of Berea College students last spring. These students put together a well-organized a campaign [called “10x10” to reflect its goal of meeting 10% of BC’s energy from renewable sources by 2010] to convince the BC administration to begin placing solar panels on its buildings and to begin planning for the future procurement of renewable energy. As part of their efforts, the students scheduled individual meetings with administrators, organized an energy conservation campaign to help offset the additional initial costs of renewables, and solicited donations from BC staff, students, and faculty. While the administration eventually agreed to pay for the remainder of the solar array, and to place the array on the central “Alumni Building,” it balked at the rest of the proposal, including budgeting for future alternative energy installations and establishing an ongoing campus committee to study and implement renewable energy.

While the 10x10 participants should certainly be proud of their efforts, I couldn’t help but wonder how much more successful this group (and other, similar efforts) might have been had they of accessed the significant and growing population of BC alums who are sympathetic to issues of sustainability and social justice. As a “veteran” student organizer, I’ve witnessed firsthand how 99% of student activists end up losing touch with ongoing activist efforts at their alma mater. Within a few years of graduation, after their younger student activist friends have also moved on, the only real connection these alums are able to maintain are with the slick, image-conscious Alumni Relations office. So alums, who often bring significant amounts of prestige and money to their alma mater, receive a very one-sided and massaged image of the goings-on there, such as those provided in the alumni magazine and donor appeals. This situation is especially problematic for politically progressive alums, many of whom look to their student activist experiences as formative but who are wary of handing over money to be administered by the same bureaucratic structures they spent so much time opposing.

A possible solution to this quandary: Progressive Alum Associations. As I move on from my college experiences, I know I’m going to be much more interested in hearing from the activist groups on campus, from the gay-straight alliance, the Black Cultural Center, the Women Studies Program, and the Sustainability & Environmental Studies Program than I am the Alumni Relations office. I know I’ll want to use my status as a BC alum to support these groups’ ongoing efforts. I also know that while I’ll probably never give BC a dime directly so long as they invest their endowment in a slew of nasty corporations, I’d be more than happy to donate my hard-earned loot directly to initiatives that support sustainability and social justice.

So what might such Progressive Alum Associations look like? Well, I’ve started sketching out some initial visions along with current BC student and 10x10 activist Danielle Capillo. I’m utilizing CampusActivism.org as a host for both a basic webpage and listserv for the group (http://www.campusactivism.org/displaygroup-1669.htm & http://www.campusactivism.org/displayemaillist-90.htm), and its stated purposes are to enable progressive BC alums to:
1) support current BC student activists and help them connect with grassroots political work beyond college
2) pressure the BC to make socially and environmentally responsible decisions
3) network with one another
I also believe that if Progressive Alum Associations were to spring up more widely, they could serve as an excellent vehicle for supporting regional and national formations of youth and student activist efforts (e.g., the Student Environmental Action Coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, etc.).

In addition to oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and other identities, it’s important to keep in mind how young people are systematically oppressed and excluded from political opportunities at liberation. Yet unlike our other identities, youth is one that we will all eventually leave behind. Before I ever went to college, my initial political awakening came about through participation in the youth liberation movement. As I “retire” from active participation in such efforts, I maintain that there is no better way to keep youth empowerment at the forefront of our thinking than to remain connected and accountable to youth-led movements for social and environmental justice. In order to fully understand and support their efforts, we have to figure out ways to keep the dialogue going. Progressive Alum Associations are one vehicle for accomplishing this aim, and for continuing to change the educational institutions that will shape the lives of future generations.