Shortly following the election of this year’s first-year Senators, ASWC hosted a weekend retreat at the Johnston Wilderness Center, during which a number of goals for 2017-2018 were discussed. One of the most popular ideas brought up was to change ASWC’s payment system from a bi-annual stipend to an hourly minimum wage.


Could such a change be on the horizon? ASWC Finance Chair Chris Meabe thinks so, and is in the midst of developing an implementation plan that, if funds allow, could see some ASWC officers receiving a minimum wage as soon as next year. The change, Meabe observed, could help propel a substantial shift in ASWC’s socioeconomic makeup, as it would make ASWC a viable option for students who need a more substantial source of income than it currently offers.


“Minimum wage isn’t a lot of money,” Meabe said, “but we could at least be competing with other organizations, both on and off of campus, that do pay a minimum wage and allow those students… whose voices need to be heard… to represent themselves in their student government.”


However, Meabe took care to note that a switch to a minimum wage is not certain. Though the will is there, as is the know-how, it is unclear at present if there will be enough funding to make the shift feasible. If there are, the change would be rolled out over a period of several years. There is also some internal debate in the Finance Committee over whether certain positions, such as Executive Council members, should remain stipended, due to the difficulty in tracking the hours performed by these positions.


“[It’s] going to be determined by how budgeting looks in March [2018],” Meabe said.


The Finance Committee is tackling a number of significant issues that will impact campus during the 2017-2018 year, such as designing an improved system of distributing funds to clubs on campus, as well as introducing legislation to ensure smarter usage of the ASWC Endowment Fund. Meabe is confident they will be up to the task.


“I have an awesome committee,” Meabe said. “[T]he people around me continue to challenge me with these incredible brilliant ideas that I don’t know how best to support, and that’s an awesome kind of challenge to have.”


ASWC has taken a big step toward a sustainable renewable energy policy for Whitman, passing a resolution that would encourage the campus to add solar panels to new campus roof installations.


Passed on October 29th, the resolution stipulates that any time a roof on campus is renovated, or a new roof is constructed, the college must consider a bid to install a solar panel on the roof. Additionally, the school would be required to identify three existing roofs that would be ideal for solar panels and consider bids on them as well. The resolution aims to decrease the amount of on-campus carbon emissions stemming from the campus’ reliance on fossil fuels.


According to ASWC Sustainability Chair Genean Wrisley, “Walla Walla is actually a good location for solar, which surprises some people because it’s cloudy a lot. But during the summer… [the panels] generate a lot of electricity. So it’s… pretty good, easy and cheap, and rooftop solar is just, like, really accessible.”


Currently, Whitman relies on RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) to decrease the impact of its emissions. These credits fund wind farms in other areas, but don’t affect the campus’ actual use of fossil fuels. The ASWC resolution puts a bit more onus on Whitman to take the initiative in decreasing its own environmental impact.


The campus seems likely to respond well to ASWC’s resolution, and Wrisley is hopeful. Even before the resolution was passed, Whitman’s new residence hall was to be constructed with rooftop solar panels installed. But the resolution does not require the campus to accept solar panels, only consider them.


“[I]t’s up to them to take the next step,” Wrisley said. “Hopefully, slowly, implementation will happen, but… it’s kind of hard to say or know.”