HKS makes strides to become more sustainable, diverse


By Citizen Staff

So what transpired since the last issue of The Citizen came out? Two weeks and two crucial events at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) that have witnessed students joining forces with faculty and staff to make HKS more sustainable and inclusive.

The first of these was a waste audit to determine the answer to an important question: How much waste do we generate? The second event, a diversity mixer, was aimed at celebrating, and addressing concerns related to, diversity.

Highlights from the two events are presented below:

Waste Audit The audit was organized by the HKS Green Team and the HKS Sustainability Initiative (HKSSI) as a joint student-staff effort. Data collected through waste audits is crucial for identifying ways to reduce waste, enhance our recycling efforts, and possibly make a case for composting at HKS. In a previous audit, it was found that 33 percent of what we throw into the trash at HKS could have been recycled.

This year’s audit was made possible with support from Rob Gogan, Supervisor of FMO Recycling and Solid Waste Removal at Harvard University and Paul Kelly, Buildings Operations Manager at the Office of Facilities Management of HKS.

A team of ten volunteers, with equal representation from students and staff, walked down on a chilly and wet Friday afternoon to the waste collection facility in Allston. Uncertain of what lay ahead, the volunteers circled around a small table in a dark and dingy warehouse to receive crucial instructions as well as protective gear to cover them from head to toe.

Wasting no time, they were split into small teams and using pairs of tongs sorted through bags of waste to separate recyclables (primarily paper, plastic and cans), compostables (tissue and food waste), reusables, trash and spoils (the unused liquid waste left in bottles and cans). Many would pinch their noses at the idea of sorting through waste; the group of students and staff participating in the audit, however, unanimously agreed that they had a lot of fun despite “stinky” moments.

Notes Sidney Besse, Staff Assistant at the Office of Financial Services of HKS, “I was surprised at all the stuff people considered trash worthy.” Unique discoveries from the trash bags included unused bottles of hand sanitizers, half-exhausted tissue rolls and wrapped-chocolate.

While results from the audit are still being compiled, it’s expected that the results will form hard evidence that can be used to highlight recycling education as a top priority for HKS. That sustainability is a key priority for HKS going ahead was displayed in the equal passion that students and staff shared in this initiative.  “This was a great collaboration among HKS staff and students, HKS Facilities, and Harvard Recycling,” Besse said. “We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s involvement.”

Culture Shock Diversity Mixer The event was organized by the Diversity Committee of HKS, a joint faculty-student body established in 2005 with an aim to address various issues pertaining to diversity in service of fulfilling the mission of the school. This year, the committee went through a major organizational shift to become much more active and sought to organize two school-wide events. The first of these events, the Diversity Mixer held on Oct. 18, 2012 turned out quite successful.

When planning for the event began a few weeks ago, Pedro Galvao, Interim Co-chair of the Campus Climate Committee, signed up for organizing the event not fully knowing what it meant as the event was undefined at the time.

Galvao stepped up to the challenge by defining his vision as ‘more than the usual Kennedy School mixer’ where students catch up with friends they already know over a couple of drinks. He and his organizing team defined the event as a platform for students, staff and faculty to share their stories in a non-hierarchical way with the provision of a non-confrontational space for everyone.

Effective outreach for the event happened through the Office of Diversity as well as partnering student organizations including the Latino Caucus, Black Student Union, Asian Pacific American Caucus, Asian American Policy Review Journal, LGBTQ Caucus and the LGBTQ Policy Journal, Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, Republican Caucus, Progressive Caucus, Latin American Caucus, European Caucus, and the Kennedy School Student Government.

As a consequence, the event saw a really good turnout and participation from all segments, so that the room was filled soon and extra chairs had to be brought in.

There were students across all programs, as well as members of the faculty including professors Marshall Ganz, Kessely Hong, Nathalie Laidler-Kyander, Julie Wilson, Mark Fagan and Jane Mansbridge, as well as members of the staff from the Office of Diversity, the Office of Career Advancement and the offices of degree programs.

Based on analysis of the feedback collected, and the experience of the organizing team, future events will be designed. The spring semester will witness another diversity-related, school-wide event called the World Café; the planning of which is still in progress. In addition, the mixer led to the announcement of another initiative called HKS Remix, which will encourage students to share their stories, either through public narrative, or performance arts and other media.

Galvao excitedly points out, “An event of this type has not happened at HKS before but now is the time to really get it going”.