Jonathan Glencross gets things done. He is an inspiring McGill student studying environment & development and minoring in philosophy who spends twice the effort on some amazing projects that have helped bring McGill up to speed regarding sustainability and bridging the gap between students and administration.
The Sustainability Project Fund (SPF) is his most recent contribution, which was a voting record breaker for McGill. It saw more than twenty-six percent of the undergraduate student body (5700 students downtown) going to the polls, with 79% in favor of the sustainability fund downtown and 88% on Macdonald campus. This was the second biggest turnout for a vote in SSMU history.
Nineteen percent of the students who voted were against the fund and to this, Jonathan said “An overwhelming majority has voted for this. I would love to see Stephen Harper get 79% on anything he ever did.”
Jonathan Glencross presenting to a crowd of over 400 McGill students on a Tuesday night about the McGill Food Systems Project
Jonathan has also also taken a lead role in the McGill Food Systems Project, is the coordinator for the Sustainable McGill project, is involved with the sustainability working group, attends SSMU environment commission meetings and sometimes goes to the four classes he is currently registered in.
“I skipped my class this morning to work on this fund because it’s clearly more worthwhile, and I will continue making decisions in the sense of asking where I am most effective,” he stated, “I find it hard learning things in the classroom when you’re not effecting change locally, too.”
Jonathan’s 215 person campaign team for the SPF contacted about every environmental and social group on campus and made over 100 class announcements. The team also created a 2450 member-strong facebook group in 6 days during the campaign, which is impressive in itself.
“There has been an overall positive reaction from everybody,” he said, noting that “there have been reservations and hesitations, but no significant opposition.”
The fund will charge a $0.50 per credit, non-opt-out-able fee through tuition over a three year trial period. Funds will be available to students, administration and staff alike. All funds from students will be matched to the cent by the University.
“If students are willing to pay up front, it needs to be recognized that it’s a meaningful thing and to do that is by a matching component,” he added.
The SPF concept was initially put on the table by Jim Nicell, associate vice principle of University services and James McGill engineering professor. He first proposed for students to have the capacity of creating their own fund, similar to Concordia University’s sustainability action fund.
“The real question came down to, â€˜how do we create a culture of sustainability at McGill?’. It became increasingly obvious that we needed to create incentives and avenues of creativity and involve it at the scale that affects behavior and operations,” Jonathan said, asking: “if you’ve lowered your footprint but you haven’t changed perceptions, then what have you really changed?”
Further development of SPF took place when Jonathan began researching the different ways other universities have run sustainability funding projects and then began forming a proposal which led into negotiations.
“It became obvious that as students, we weren’t going to move forward on a self-operating model,” he argues, “we felt it was more meaningful to have a matching component with administration. The polarized culture of “us vs. them” that we have right now at McGill is less than trusting and the proposal addresses this. Trying to break down this mentality will bring out the best in people. Trust is integral, and consensus and parity are really important aspects of the fund.”
As Albert Einstein had once said, “great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds.” The opposition Jonathan received was not borne of violence, but of an unwillingness to change.
“I was told that this fund wouldn’t be possible, but no other issue has gotten students out to vote to this degree. People will tell you all the time that you can’t do something, but no is never a reason for me.”
With this, he quoted a professor who asked if we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. “What is it that we are doing? Are we getting to the fundamental issues or not?”
Regarding Jonathan’s future plans, he shared that “If I had a choice right now, I’d like to take a nap.” He spends at least double the amount of energy on projects outside the classroom, “It’s what I’m passionate about.”
This is something that McGill has needed for quite some time. Speaking for myself, it has always been an embarrassment to see how much further other schools were in terms of making their campuses more sustainable. Jonathan isn’t comfortable taking all of the credit, but as a major catalyst for this leap forward, I send a big thank you to him. Thank you, Jonathan.
To learn more about funding details, and about the project itself, please click here.