ASG talks plastic use, reopens budgets

At its weekly General Assembly Tuesday evening, the Allegheny Student Government discussed issues with the Green Box system and sustainability within the dining service, voted to reopen club budget hearings, and swore in a new senator and cabinet member.
In his report to Senate as ASG Vice President, Rudra Schultz-Ray, ’23, spoke about discussions he had been having with the college’s Director of Sustainability Kelly Boulton, ’02. In particular, Schultz-Ray highlighted the use of plastic, particularly at McKinley’s.
“It was written into Aramark’s contract that they were not supposed to backtrack on any of the sustainability stuff that we’ve done,” Schultz-Ray said. “As you’ve probably seen through the large amount of disposable plastic containers, they have backtracked on them. It’s essentially up to Kelly to put pressure on them, because they’re essentially violating their contract by doing that.”
Allegheny — the first carbon-neutral college in Pennsylvania — has a history of pushing its dining services into the green. Among the ways single-use plastic is targeted is through the “Green Box” program. Green Boxes are reusable containers for carrying food out of dining halls, but this year they have been slow to roll out.
“This is a new partner who doesn’t fully know what we had before, like students do or like administrators do,” Boulton told The Campus in an interview Thursday. “It sounds like they’re implementing the (Green Box) program, but there aren’t enough boxes to implement the program.”
Boulton added that the college had recently received a shipment of more of the reusable containers, and said they will go into service next week, if they have not already entered circulation.
Another way the system can recover, Boulton said, is if students return what Green Boxes they already have and continue to circulate the containers instead of inadvertently hoarding them.
“I know this happens and honestly, I’ve had multiple ones in my office,” Boulton said. “It’s not a student problem, it’s a human nature problem. Students can help right now by getting the boxes back into rotation, and just trying to be on top of returning the boxes as you use them.”
If Aramark was not receptive to decreasing plastic usage, Schultz-Ray suggested during the meeting that students organize to pressure the dining service to hold to its sustainability requirements.
In the discussion that followed, Senator Joe Leszczynski, ’25, suggested taking the conversation to college President Hilary Link, who the ASG Cabinet met with the day following the GA.
“My guess would be to mention that to her because, as the president, I think she would want to know about a breach of contract,” Leszczynski said.
In an interview after the GA, Schultz-Ray walked back his statement that Aramark was stepping outside its agreement with the college.
“I say breach of contract, but I want to be more hesitant about that term,” Schultz-Ray said. “That’s a loaded term and I’m not informed enough really to say anything is. I haven’t looked at the contract and I don’t know what Aramark is doing specifically.”
However, Boulton said that while the semester started with some difficulties, she is in constant communication with Aramark about keeping the dining service sustainable.
“There are some problems that we’re having for sure, but the good thing is that we’re working those problems as quickly as we find them,” Boulton said. “If (students) see something, come talk to one of us because the relationship and the cooperation is there, we just need the information to be able to have those conversations and fix them.”
Aramark Dining did not respond to a request for comment.
Following the weekly finance report from ASG Director of Finance Adriana Solis, ’23, ASG President Veronica Green, ’23, initiated a conversation about the body’s annual budget. Green and Solis had met with members of the college administration on Monday, and Green confirmed that the surplus fund would be just over $400,000 and the general fund would be around $364,000. These numbers track with estimates from the college administration published by The Campus last Friday.
“We under-allocated (money to clubs) because we didn’t think we were going to have much of an operating budget to begin with,” Green said. “We were only expecting around $100,000 for our surplus fund.”
Given that ASG will have more than projected, Green asked the Senate to consider moving money from the surplus fund to the general fund and reopening budget hearings to give clubs more money.
In response to a question from Class of 2023 President Shira Haus, Green did note that ASG would not be pulling from the surplus every year and said that the surplus is not expected to get as large as it has in the last few years.
“The college’s impression is that we should be spending that money on students that year, and then the rollover would only be minimal to contribute to uniform and equipment costs,” Green said.”
Following the discussion, ASG voted unanimously to reopen club budget hearings, though the body did not indicate if those hearings would only be open to clubs who had already received a budget. Since the body did not make that determination, it will be up to the Budget Committee to decide.
“The people on the budget (committee) are president, vice president and president-elect, vice president-elect, and then treasurer,” Green said after the meeting. “Since we don’t have any ‘elects,’ it will likely be (Schultz-Ray, myself, Solis and Interim Dean of Students Trae Yeckley).”
The committee normally convenes in the spring to allocate club budgets for the next academic year.
Later in the GA, the body voted unanimously to move $50,000 from the surplus fund to the general fund to cover the fresh budget hearings.
In other business, ASG approved a new cabinet member. Amani Green, ’25, will join Cam Lesher, ’24, as co-Director of Student Affairs.
Green also swore in a new senator for the Class of 2023, Ayah Sham. Haus said that the remaining two Senate seats for her class have been filled, but the appointees could not attend the GA that week. With these three appointments, the only empty Senate seats are for the Class of 2024.
“I really can’t find senators, so if you have any, please send them my way,” said Class President Juliana James, ’24.
The next ASG General Assembly is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in CC301/302.

A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Amani Green’s name. The story has been updated to correct the error.