Green Center

Members of the Student Sustainability Collective celebrated their official move-in to the new Sustainability Resource Center in Price Center on May 17, after finalizing the terms of a legal document that allows them to share space with university staff.

The SRC was designed to be an informational center where students can learn about sustainability careers and eco-friendly products. It was funded by the university and private donors, and opened its doors last November. However, after being verbally promised shared usage of the center by administrators, SSC members were initially denied open access when it opened last November.

They were mostly at odds with Campus Sustainability Coordinator Maggie Souder, whose office is housed in the center. The two parties could not agree on the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding, which would act as a legal document to officially establish the terms of the shared space. Without it, students were legally denied the ability to co-manage the SRC.

In a January 21 Guardian article, both Souder and one of the six SSC student directors, Rishi Ghosh, said the MOU drafting process was impeded because SSC members clashed with Souder over how much access each party would receive.

“In the details is where it falls through,” Souder told the Guardian reporter.

As a result, students and staff met throughout Winter and Spring Quarters to draft a MOU that served both their interests.

“With the MOU, we had a few rough spots, but we basically increased the frequency of our meetings to the point where we were meeting at one point 10 hours a week almost,” Ghosh said.

Members recruited the help of Vice Chancellor of Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews and Assistant Vice Chancellor Russell Thackston to help expedite the process.

“When we realized discussions weren’t going anywhere, we called in help,” SSC student director Elizabeth Elman said. “[Matthews and Thackston] were very willing to listen to our concerns and help us negotiate with the staff — which, in my opinion, was the critical concern holding us back.”

When discussions came to a halt in late January, SSC members threatened Souder that they would take the case to University Centers administrators — who have the power to alter the terms of the SRC — as a negotiating tool.

“None of those escalation tactics were necessary, because we were ultimately able to work it out among ourselves,” Ghosh said.

Staff and students finalized the MOU last week, then sent it to Thackston and A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine for final approval. Ghosh said he expects the document to be approved within two weeks.

According to the drafted MOU, students will manage half the SRC’s floor space — including the lounge area, which will also function as student office space. SSC members will also now be allowed to use the center’s storage space for materials such as informational pamphlets.

The six SSC student directors have additionally been granted full-time access by way of a fingerprint scanner at the center’s entrance. Before, students were only permitted to enter the space when Souder was present.

Lastly, the MOU grants SSC members the ability to schedule projects and meetings in the SRC without requesting approval from Souder in advance.

Ghosh and Souder both said separately that the agreement is a step forward for campus sustainability.

“It was great to see the happiness and enthusiasm that was apparent at Monday’s move-in celebration,” Souder said. “The collaboration occurring in the space continues to shape UC San Diego’s sustainability future.”

Readers can contact Ayelet Bitton at [email protected].

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