Will Green Get the Vote?
Sarah McQueen

Various member of the Student Government Association have collaborated to begin a program that will provide funding for an environmental and sustainability movement on campus while simultaneously providing a way for people to share their ideas on this topic.

“When we were looking at sustainability on campus and how it’s done, we identified two areas that could be improved,” said senator for the Student Government Association, David Boardman. “One, there is not an adequate funding source for sustainable capital projects and investments on this campus. Two, we obviously have a lot of different interested parties on sustainability and a lot of ideas and experts out there on this campus. But there is really no central structure or place for them to come together and collaborate on those ideas and projects.”

The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point currently dedicates about $15,000 annually to sustainability projects. That money is overseen by SGA and goes to educational programs, funding speakers and other projects.

“When you look at a lot of capital projects, it’s really not a lot of money to implement effective projects,” Boardman said. “That is only under SGA’s control, and it doesn’t really account for all the other parties on campus that have sustainability in mind.”

With the new green fund, the amount of money available would increase by about $100,000. The funding would all come directly from segregated fees, which would work out to about $12 per student every year.

“We looked at the amount of funding that other UW system comprehensives had for green funds, and it turned out that two other colleges that had really strong green funds, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Lacrosse,” “Both had funds that were right around 1.2 to 1.5 percent from their student segregated fees that went towards a dedicated sustainability fund,” said Mackenzie Walters, who is regional field organizer at UWSP.

The fund is set up in two ways. There will be a Green Council and a Steering Committee. The Green Council will be made up of anyone who is interested in sharing ideas on improving sustainability on campus. From the Green Council, members will be elected to sit on the Steering Committee. The committee will have some students, a member from SGA, a member from residential living and a Sustainability Coordinator, who has yet to be hired. The Steering Committee will determine how the funds will be utilized.

Part of the requirement for investing these funds in any project is that they must be able to prove money spent will be made up within 16 years. For example, if they want to improve efficiency of a heating system in a building, they must prove that they will save the money spent by lowering utility bills.

“While this is definitely a project we are passionate about, we really believe that it should be a mechanism for the students at large to pursue their sustainability goals,” Walters said. “So we haven’t hard-written any projects into the bylaw, so to speak. The big hope would be lowering the university’s carbon footprint.”

If the referendum is passed, it will last for five years. After those five years, it will have to pass students’ votes again in order to continue.

Provided that the SGA senate votes for the green fund to go through, the referendum will be issued to students in the election on March 15-21. The election is done via email, and the referendums will appear along with ballots for choosing SGA officials. Walters stated that students should reach out to SGA even before the vote with any concerns or opinions they have on this issue.

If the funding gets a majority vote from the students, the program will begin in the fall semester.