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BUCC votes to join fair labor nonprofit consortium

Officials discuss dorm life, energy issues

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Students showed support for a proposal to increase the fair treatment of workers who produce university apparel at a Brown University Community Council meeting Tuesday. The council also discussed dorm living and recent energy announcements.

Returning to an issue the BUCC has discussed before, Walter Hunter, vice president of administration and chief risk officer, presented a proposal for the Designated Suppliers Program.

The DSP is designed to ensure that textile workers’ rights are not violated in the production of university apparel. This is built on two components: requirements of factories to treat workers fairly and requirements on licensees to ensure fair contracts and price standards.

The newest report from Hunter and the committee he worked with on the topic, which included faculty, students and administrators, recommends the University issue a statement in support of DSP and join the Worker Rights Consortium Working Group, a non-profit organization working to implement similar programs at other universities.

“The key is for Brown to be at the table,” Hunter said.

Katie Panella ’07, who has worked with the group, also spoke and praised the student, faculty and administrator collaboration.

“This is a result of a lot of different opinions,” she said. “Important decisions should not be made behind closed doors,”

The Student Labor Alliance was in full attendance to support Hunter’s announcement of the DSP proposal. SLA first brought this issue to the attention of Simmons in 2005 and has since focused a lot of time and energy on making this program work at Brown, student representatives said.

“SLA has been present and will continue to be present,” Lenora Knowles ’11 said.

The BUCC unanimously voted to follow the steps outlined in the DSP proposal.

Energy initiatives

Chris Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives, presented goals for reducing the University’s carbon footprint. On Jan. 24, President Ruth Simmons announced greenhouse gas reduction goals, which Powell recapped at the BUCC meeting.

Existing buildings on campus will reduce their emissions to 42 percent of 2007 levels by 2020. New construction will be 25 to 50 percent below state emission standards. The plans are designed to achieve, at minimum, a silver standard in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system for buildings. Any newly acquired facilities will operate between 15 and 30 percent below state standards.

The discrepancy in numbers between building categories is largely due to unknown factors, such as existing heating devices, possibilities for fuel switching and the buildings’ current efficiency levels.

Existing structures will undergo evaluation in order to make sure they have the opportunity to “operate to design,” Powell said. The University will also evaluate the potential for new improvement or investment. The president’s home is currently being used as a “case study,” and the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine, a newly acquired property at 70 Ship St., is also being examined.

Projects in the works – the Mind Brain Behavior Building, the Creative Arts Center, the renovation of Rhode Island Hall, the Nelson Fitness Center and a new aquatics facility – are being planned with High Performance Design and LEED Silver regulations in mind.

“We want to make sure we build these buildings for the long-term,” Powell said.

When asked about solar and wind power implementation, Powell said that though nothing is currently planned, “we’re looking at other options as we go through.”

Ginger Gritzo, energy and environmental programs coordinator, unveiled the new Web site – “Brown is Green.” The goal of the Web site is to “educate its community, armed with the tools to prevent further damage to the environment,” she said.

The Web site’s four key foci are research and teaching, University commitments, community collaboration and student groups and initiatives.

As part of the Community Carbon Use Reduction at Brown plan, the University has made $350,000 available in grants for projects which will reduce carbon emissions. The funding will be paid out over this calendar year and applications are available to all members of the community.

As new projects and programs are implemented, the University will begin tracking the savings and cost of each effort, in order to better know “exactly what we need and what we’ll be spending,” Powell said.

The ‘residential experience’

Also on the council’s agenda was the report from the Committee on the Residential Experience, which was created to review the student experience outside of the classroom. Margaret Klawunn, associate vice president of campus life and dean for student life and co-chair of the committee, presented the group’s preliminary suggestions for improving the residential experience.

In light of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, she said, “We have to ask, ‘How is the undergraduate experience out of the classroom a part of that?'”

The report covers three main categories: facilities, student-faculty interaction and programming and staffing within the residence halls.

Working with students, faculty and administrators, the committee determined that there is a deficit of lounge space and a need for more frequent renovations in dormitories.

Faculty and student interactions have high value, Klawunn said, but the University could support them further. In conjunction with the ongiong review of undergraduate academics, the faculty fellows program is being revised by the committee in order to tie academics and student life together more strongly.

Student feedback regarding residence hall programming led the committee to recommend tailoring programs to different kinds of support. Though the student-counselor ratio in freshman dorms is one to 20, it jumps in sophomore dorms to one to ninety, the report stated.

The committee wants to provide more counselors and “redeploy” counselors already hired to provide the appropriate resources.

BUCC members offered additional suggestions, including greater funding for students and faculty to eat meals together; more communal spaces in academic buildings, like Barus and Holley’s lobby cafe; and more structured interactions between undergraduate and graduate students.

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