Students at Hofstra have been vocal and adamant about making big changes in regard to our carbon footprint as a university. However, in the past few semesters, the Sustainability Studies Club and Students for a Greener Hofstra have been de-recognized due to lack of interest from students. So, where is the disconnect? Why do our student initiatives seem to fizzle out after only a few weeks?
I was the treasurer of the Sustainability Studies Club in the fall 2018 semester. Two students attended our meetings regularly, and when they had other obligations for their majors, our attendance permanently changed to zero.
I talked to student after student who claimed they cared deeply about the issue and that, of course, they would be at the meeting. The students never came. Students are certainly concerned, which has been made clear through (failed) student initiatives and never-ending social media posts. The problem, at the end of the day, is twofold: Students refuse to coherently organize and listen to the facts.
I am not the most sustainable person in the world – I don’t know everything there is to know about shrinking my carbon footprint. I’ve been a vegetarian for just over a year now, I have a metal water bottle and a metal coffee mug and I carry around a metal straw with me in my backpack. I’ve learned a lot about sustainability from my classes, friends and club meetings.
I do my own research about sustainability worldwide. Some students, however, have not had the opportunity to learn about sustainability here. For example, I have spoken with the sustainability officer (did you know we have one?) and have had many conversations with her about what Hofstra actually does in regard to sustainability.
She told me all about Hofstra’s recycling policies. Guess what? We actually do recycle, which was highlighted in The Chronicle’s article, “Hofstra’s green initiative falls short for many.” This information has started to spread throughout the student population, but many students would not like to believe it. Instead of starting a conversation, for example, they tell me we have to dismantle capitalism first. While that argument has a lot of value, it’s still possible to stop using plastic in the student center while capitalism is alive and well.
The other problem is the lack of coherent organization between student groups. In the very recent past, we had the Sustainability Studies Club, Hofstra Student Organization for Animal Rights (SOAR) and Students for a Greener Hofstra all acting at one time.
Now, after the collapse of two of these clubs in a short time span, we have a new environmental club on campus sponsored by the Sustainability Studies department: LEAF, or Leaders for Environmental Action and Fellowship. Although I had been on the executive board of the Sustainability Studies club one semester before, I hadn’t heard that this club was being created until the day of the elections.
As we know, Hofstra is nowhere near perfect when it comes to discussing sustainability. Clubs have disregarded and disrespected students whose cultural practices or health problems do not allow them to become vegetarian or vegan.
Hofstra has made the claim that students encouraged and incited the change from styrofoam to paper cups in Dunkin’ Donuts, when the company has a business plan to remove all styrofoam cups by 2020. Hofstra’s 2018-23 strategic plan includes sustainability, but there are no concrete actions we can look forward to.
At the end of the day, one student is not going to change Hofstra by themselves. Discussing sustainability and environmentalism at Hofstra will need students, faculty, staff and administrators dedicated to the cause. If we look at Hofstra’s track record, there will be no institutional changes to our university without student uproar. There is no correct way to fix Hofstra’s issue with sustainability, but if there is no larger conversation and eventual organization, nothing will be done at all.