Students have accused the University of Wollongong of cost cutting at the expense of its carbon footprint after the campus’s environmental manager was told her contract would not be renewed.
More than 800 social media followers are calling on UOW to retain the manager, and a peaceful protest is planned on campus today.
But the university denies the position has been permanently axed, saying it has merely been put on hold while a review of all administration and support services is completed.
The manager, Lisa Miller, heads UOW’s Environmental & Sustainable Initiatives Unit of seven staff.
The staff devise policies to save on water, energy and emissions; improve waste management; attract grants for sustainability projects and set and monitor sustainability targets for the university.
Natasha Jones, environment officer within UOW’s student union, said students were concerned the position was being cut to save money, and that the university would be less stringent in its sustainability practices without a manager leading the unit.
‘‘The [unit] has saved the university hundreds of thousands of dollars every year,’’ Ms Jones said.
‘‘The university has won many environmental awards and we do have now an international reputation as a sustainable campus.
‘‘I think this will really tarnish the university’s reputation if they don’t follow through with this commitment to keep the role of environmental manager.’’
Ms Miller’s contract expires in February.
UOW’s chief administration officer Melva Crouch said students were mistaken in their belief the position had been permanently axed.
‘‘Despite comments being made through social media, the university has not removed the position of environmental manager,’’ she said.
‘‘The contract is coming to an end for the person who currently holds the position and the university is using this situation to temporarily put the position on hold while it looks at ways of progressing the role.’’
Ms Crouch said a review of all administration and support services was under way, to align support positions with UOW’s newly amalgamated faculties. Eleven faculties have been turned into five under the reshuffle.
‘‘UOW was not seeking job cuts with its recent implementation of its new faculty structure. It is a similar situation with the administrative review now under way,’’ Ms Crouch said.
‘‘Administrative and support service alignment to the emerging faculty and executive structure is essential to building the integrated, efficient and strategic approach which is imperative to the university’s future success.
‘‘We are simply trying to ensure that UOW is efficiently and effectively using its resources, which is critical in an external climate of reduced levels of federal government funding.’’