By Cecilia Cress
The position of a permanent director of sustainability at Washington College has been vacant since May 2020. The Environmental Committee of the Student Government Association as well as environmental sustainability groups across campus call for the position to be filled as soon as possible.
Associate Director of Alumni Engagement Shane Brill ’03 currently holds the position of interim director of sustainability at WC, and has been interim director for nearly two years.
While there is no current search for a permanent director of sustainability, there’s an “awareness of the need for the position” to be filled, according to Brill. This need is echoed and supported by SGA and organizations across campus, such as the Campus Garden Club, Composting Club, and permaculture interns and students.
Student director of sustainability senior Emma Cease said she believes that it is extremely important for the College to begin this search, as a permanent director of sustainability will help to organize, monitor, and push forward many environmental sustainability initiatives on campus.
“I think permanently filling the director of sustainability role should be a top priority for the school right now. [Brill] is absolutely phenomenal but is volunteering his time as interim Director while working full-time for alumni engagement,” Cease said. “In order for the school to fully back up their projection of being an environmentally forward school, we need to have someone designated as the permanent head of all of our environmental initiatives.”
SGA recognized the need for the role to be filled in their weekly meetings, as they are currently working on “language for [the] director of sustainability job recommendation,” according to the March 9 minutes. Faculty and students hope this will help push the College to finally act. “The SGA’s resolution advocating for rehiring a full-time director of sustainability highlights the importance of the role on campus. My sense is that a search may commence once the strategic plan for the College gets revisited, since that will determine administrative placement of the position and the scope of what the individual will work toward,” Brill said.
Since the search has not begun yet, the duties of the permanent holder of the title are not officially laid out by the College. According to Brill, the responsibilities of the director of sustainability “could range widely from monitoring and managing campus energy use, participating in reporting processes to assess our progress and set priorities, or developing programs and workshops to transform and uplift the campus community.”
Over the past two years as Interim Director, Brill has also advised the Campus Garden and Compost Team, while working with Buildings and Grounds on projects such as a beekeeping course, and removing swarms from campus without the use of harsh chemicals.
Brill also manages the Permaculture and Food Initiative internships, which are programs that encourage and educate students as environmental sustainability advocates through hands-on exposure to ecological concepts. Brill said he is also working with Residential Life to create a Living Learning Community “dedicated to regenerative lifestyles that help students optimize their own wellbeing while supporting campus sustainability.”
“[Brill] is an extraordinary leader and is at the heart of all of our environmental initiatives…He selflessly devotes so much of his time to our campus and always makes himself available to us when we need him,” Cease said. “I know I speak for all of our environmental groups when I say that he has inspired us so much to make positive change and feel a strong connection to the environment.”
While Brill as the current interim director continually works to educate and create new campus sustainability initiatives, Cease said an interim director isn’t viable. A permanent holder of the position is needed to ensure these programs continue and improve.
“The current progress and strong efforts being made are only happening because of the passion our current environmental groups and [Brill] have to drive these programs forward. Having a permanent director would ensure the longevity of the progress we are currently making and inspire future students,” Cease said.
“We’re living organisms on a living planet. We all happen to have been born into a cultural paradigm based on short-term exploitation that is simultaneously devastating the environment and wrecking our collective health,” Brill said. “Through a multidisciplinary approach and a critical perspective…we can shift the paradigm from one of destruction into abundance and vitality.
“The director of sustainability can help serve as our institutional guide in this important transition,” Brill said.
Elm Archive Photo
Featured Photo Caption: Since 2020, several Washington College students, staff, and faculty members have called for the campus to permanently fill the position of director of sustainability.