Matthew Park

Junior Maddie McMurray was inspired to create the Environmental Action Advocate (EAA) position after Whittier College student government funded a dunk tank, which wasn’t a problem, aside from one thing: California was still in a drought. 

“I noticed that Senate was lacking [an environmental] voice in the Spring of my freshman year, when there was funding for a dunk tank in the middle of a drought,” said McMurray. “I then worked on drafting a piece of legislation that would amend the position into the constitution. To me, that just seemed interesting; that Whittier was trying to be environmentally conscious, but our student government was going against the mission of the school.”

Courtesy of Whittier College

Courtesy of Whittier College

McMurray spent the majority of her first year and sophomore year drafting a piece of legislation that would amend the position of Environmental Action Advocate (EAA) into the ASWC Constitution in an effort to make the student governing body more environmentally conscious in their decision-making. She was successful in creating the position and served as EAA during the Spring and Fall semesters of 2016. McMurray resigned from her position as EAA earlier this semester for personal reasons,  and the student body is currently searching for the next EAA candidate, who has yet to be appointed.

The EAA is a member of the ASWC Senate voting table who gives a voice to environmental concerns on campus. “Whoever holds the chair has the expectation of being involved on campus in terms of sustainable actions or improvements,” explained McMurray. The EAA is a non-voting member, acting as an environmental advisor to the other members of the table. While still in a new position, the presence of an EAA signifies the desire of the Whittier College student body to make the campus into a more sustainable one.

Although McMurray resigned from her position earlier in the semester, she explained that searching for a new EAA has been an ongoing process throughout the school year. “My resignation from the table was premeditated. I had been planning to send out the application form for the new EAA since about November,” said McMurray. “It was my intention that my protégée would have time to sit on the table and prepare for the upcoming semester and have time to ask me questions, essentially getting comfortable with the role.”

Courtesy of Whittier College

Courtesy of Whittier College

While there are organizations such as the Sustainability Club and Food Recovery Network on campus that raise awareness about these issues, the EAA exists to ensure that all governing bodies on the Whittier campus are environmentally-conscious, which fortunately seemed to be the case during McMurray’s tenure. “Obviously, my opinion is probably biased, but I think that the passing of the bill in general brought a lot of awareness to sustainable efforts,” said McMurray. “The moment my chair was created was the moment I noticed that funding requests were more cognizantly put together.”

Since the role of EAA is a non-voting member, the organizations on campus that promote sustainability are not constituents of the EAA. McMurray is heavily active in these groups: currently, she is Vice President of the Sustainability Club, where she has more planned following her resignation from Senate. Since the previous EAA was active in most of the clubs on the Environmental Committee, it is likely that the next person to get the position of EAA will come from one of the organizations represented by this committee.

Just before spring break, the EAA application period came to an end, leaving the Leadership Experience and Programs (LEAP) Office just over a week to interview, evaluate, and choose the next EAA. As of now, the next EAA has yet to be appointed by ASWC.

Green Horizons is an online publication run by the students of Whittier College's Environmental Journalism class. To see more from Green Horizons click here.