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By Paul Flessland, Published March 12 2013

Concordia students hold eco-protest

MOORHEAD - A group of students concerned about Concordia College’s sustainability efforts organized a sit-in at noon Tuesday in Lorentzen Hall, the college’s administrative building.

Between 70 and 80 students, faculty and staff participated in a protest that organizers called “Occupy Lorentzen,” with students giving speeches and chanting, “We must sustain for us to gain.”

The rally was in support of a letter to Concordia President William Craft that called for a 30 percent reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, a “transparent presentation” of its energy usage and a focus on incorporating sustainability into the curriculum, specifically at the college’s new business school.

Stephanie Barnhart, a senior at Concordia and one of the organizers, said the idea for a sit-in came about after the college issued its vision for sustainability in December. It was a way to ensure college administrators do “what they say they’re going to do,” she said.

“It lets administrators who make those decisions know that students really are paying attention to this issue,” Barnhart said.

Craft, who attended the protest, issued a statement afterward saying change is on its way – much of which will occur by the end of the spring semester.

“We will not let you down,” he said.

Kelsey Kava, a senior at Concordia and member of the protest, appreciated Craft’s response, but felt that they would not have received the response without the protest.

“If we hadn’t have been there, would anything have happened?” she asked.

“We wanted it to be something students can actively do, instead of just writing their names on a petition,” Barnhart said.

Andrew Lindner, assistant professor of sociology at Concordia, agrees that action is necessary.

“Students will always have to keep pressure on any kind of administration to do more,” he said. “It’s so nice to see the students use the voice they have.”

The college has been working on energy efficiency for quite some time, Craft said, but changes do take time.

“Curricular change is fundamental, but not instantaneous,” he said.

In the statement, Craft said that one way Concordia will be more accountable for its sustainability initiative is by participating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.

The self-reporting green-rating system allows colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. The results from the analysis are posted online. There are 222 institutions participating in the system, according to the rating system’s website.

Craft added that the college will be hiring a student intern to help set up the system this summer.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Paul Flessland at (701) 241-5502