Donation redirection could cripple Center for Sustainability

Zac Estrada and Zac Estrada

The Center for Sustainability may be unsustainable if a recommendation from the college president is approved to redistribute more than $75,000 earmarked for the program.

Last week, Dr. Adam Green, professor and director of the center, received word that 85 percent of a $90,000 donation from the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College will no longer fund the Center for Sustainability. It will now go towards the foundation’s other causes.

Green said Superintendent-President Dr. Andreea Serban’s wish to “no longer make the Center a priority” would effectively slow or stop its ability to bring in funds to operate.

To battle the impending executive decision, Green sent a letter to several colleagues of his on May 5. He is hoping to bring to attention the severity of the issue and rally last-minute support to prevent the center from getting scuttled in the sea of budget crisis, he said.

“I don’t need that much but the one thing I do need is the support of SBCC,” Green said. “My hope is that it galvanizes support, so we can do the work that we do. Everyday our work becomes more relevant.”

Green said the Center for Sustainability was created using the college’s MacDougall Excellence funds. When that funding ran out, he began pushing for money to be raised through the college foundation, making sure the center was a priority there.

“The Center can’t go and solicit its own donations,” Green said. “All fundraising must go through the foundation. That’s why you need to be a priority.”

In an e-mail to The Channels, Serban said that there are ways the center for Sustainability can survive without this particular funding source.

“The Center for Sustainability is assured funds for 2010-11 and some years beyond through money coming from grants that the center received as well as allocations from unrestricted funds that the Foundation received for the college that are being used for the center,” she said. “The center has opportunities to continue to apply for grants as it has in the past and there are also donors being approached at this time to seek support from the center that would provide additional funding beyond its current funding.”

In his May 5 e-mail, Green stated, “Given the challenges we and our students face in the coming years it seems the campus should support a program that has worked to enrich our campus and curriculum with highly relevant opportunities designed to better prepare our students and improve the resiliency of our campus, especially when the vast majority of its budget comes from outside college funds.”

In an interview with The Channels, Green pointed to the developments the center has been behind in its short existence, such as the sustainable landscaping done near the newly remodeled Life Fitness Center, the solar panel installation on West Campus parking lots and the zero-waste initiative that includes the composting partnership with the city of Santa Barbara, among other steps to minimize the college’s eco footprint.

The donation was originally $100,000 from the family of an anonymous donor.

Barbara Ben-Horin, CEO of the foundation, met with the children of the donors, who were environmentalists, and decided the funds should go to the center.

Ben-Horin could not be reached for comment before The Channels’ deadline.

The money was invested, and because of the economic downturn, is now worth about $89,000, according to Green. He said a meeting to decide when to “unlock” the funds would have taken place soon.

The Center for Sustainability is required to raise at least $100,000 per year in order to continue operation. Green said the center has been able to “meet and even exceed” that requirement.

That’s why he was confused as to Serban’s justification in an e-mail to him, saying the center has not been able to raise a significant amount of money and that there were other programs funded by the Foundation that were of higher importance.

“Why sustainability is not a priority is a mystery to me,” Green said. “It enriches the college and creates opportunities for students.”

The Academic Senate will discuss the center at their meeting at 3 p.m. today in BC 214.

The Executive Committee of the Foundation board will meet May 18 to put a formal decision in motion.

“It’s a missed opportunity to be quite honest,” Green said. “If people see the potential of what we’re doing we could put ourselves up as a prestigious education organization, strengthen bonds of the community. Students could take pride in the college.”