Preservation Vs. Conservation

by Jaclyn Dennis

It is a well known fact that Salem’s campus is one that exhibits beauty, particularly through its rich history. However, some of the most historically significant elements on campus can often seem to be the most problematic.

One of the complaints that I hear most is usually along the lines of how outdated it is. This includes slow Wi-Fi, inconsistent air conditioning, outdated windows and bathrooms, and most prevalently, a lack of sustainability.

These concerns are certainly valid, but sometimes it seems like none of these issues are ever going to be addressed. Junior Caroline McMahon voices a similar opinion that “students can offer critique and feedback about the buildings, and that the faculty is listening, but [she’s] never voiced [her] opinion and felt like they were going to do something about it.”

To see what kind of student-initiated changes have been made on campus in regards to sustainability, I talked to Karina Gonzalez, Eco Club board member and Student Government Association Sustainability Fund Chair.

What are your specific duties as SGA Sustainability Fund Chair?

As SGA Sustainability Fund Chair I work to foster engagement and to help students complete their proposals and projects. I then serve on the committee that reviews said proposals to determine how to allocate our funds.

What kind of projects have you seen go through sustainability fund that have been successful?

I’m looking forward to all of this semester’s proposals. As the Sustainability Fund Chair I’ve seen our cistern installed and start functioning on campus, thanks to Emily Rutledge, C’16. The proposal was one from last year, but it’s been rewarding to see the implementation and results.

What do you think are the most pressing physical issues on campus that need to be addressed?

There are various tangible issues on this campus that could be addressed and ameliorated. From unsustainable heating systems and windows, to the excessive quantity of waste we produce, to the unscrupulous energy sources this school utilizes, there is a plethora of issues that desperately need to be addressed.

As a student interested in initiating such changes and looking to pursue an architectural path with a historic preservation certificate, I immediately discussed my concerns with my professors. I was able to organize a final project in PRSV 240 (Preservation-Sensitive Sustainable Design) focusing on buildings around campus.

Specifically my project focuses on Strong Honors House, which seemed to have some of the most pressing issues. My project entails examining the building for problems, particularly things that make the building less efficient or unsafe. I received a huge response after asking Strong residents about issues they experienced with the building, and am working on identifying these issues and proposing solutions that wouldn’t deplete the building’s historic elements. After doing this, I will compose a price estimate with different financial options and make a proposal to the sustainability fund (and administration if appropriate).

Several other buildings on campus besides Strong must be addressed promptly if sustainable, realistic changes are ever going to be made. If you would like to conduct a project to increase sustainability at Salem, I highly encourage you to take action and contact me with any ideas or suggestions.

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