Wesleyan may soon join the ranks of a growing number of universities that have begun charging students an optional $15 per-semester “Green” fee to fund sustainability initiatives on campus. The proposal, which was drafted by members of the student group Environmental Organizers Network (EON), is still in its earliest stages and will require votes of approval from the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), student body, and Board of Trustees in order to be implemented.
EON leaders began discussing the fund last spring in response to what they saw as a lack of consistent funding for sustainability initiatives on campus.
“Our campus is progressive and mostly environmentally-minded, but right now, we don’t have the financial resources that are required to make any substantial impact,” said EON member Julia Michaels ’12.
The fee would be added to the Student Activities Fee, which is currently $270 per year. Students would have the option to opt out of the additional $30 annual contribution.
“I think that [the opt-out policy] is very important because it allows people to make the conscious decision to become invested and to become a stakeholder in these environmental initiatives,” said WSA President Mike Pernick.
The fund would raise an estimated $65,000 per year, to be allocated by a committee of students, staff, and faculty members. The six-member task force would likely include a Financial Administrator, a Physical Plant Representative, an Environmental Studies Department Faculty member, and three WSA representatives.
The WSA will refine the proposal within the next few weeks before it goes up for vote. The fund will need to receive a majority vote from the WSA, approval from two-thirds of the student body who decide to vote, and approval from the Board of Trustees before it is implemented.
The WSA is currently engaged in discussions about the fund with the Administration in hopes of creating a collaborative project. According to Pernick, however, some administrators have voiced concern about the addition of another fee.
While specific projects for the fund have yet to be determined, the proposal aims to decrease the University’s carbon footprint and increase its use of renewable energy sources. Possible projects include the installation of solar panels, hiring a full-time Sustainability Coordinator, purchasing renewable energy credits for campus power, and installing motion-sensor lighting throughout campus.
Josh Levine ’12, WSA Sustainability Coordinator and EON Co-President who is spearheading the project, says that he hopes the fund will also be able to finance student projects and research.
“Especially with the College of the Environment probably coming on board, and the new Environmental Studies Major, we want students to be able to apply [these new programs] practically,” he said.
Wesleyan would not be the first University to implement such a fund. Fifty institutions of higher education nationwide have already mandated “Green Fees,” as they are often called, including UC Berkeley, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Connecticut College, and the University of Oregon.
“Given the number of universities that are less environmentally-minded seeming schools and state schools which require getting [the fee approved by] the state legislature, as opposed to just the Board of Trustees of a private university, it’s really shocking that our school doesn’t already have [a Green Fund],” said Julia Jonas-Day ’12.
While EON has conducted smaller scale fundraising efforts in the past, the Administration has not earmarked a fund for environmental initiatives. The “Green Fund” would be the University’s first renewable fund for sustainability projects.
“It would be borderline impossible for students to fundraise tens of thousands of dollars year after year in a sustainable way, the way that you could with the green fund,” Levine said. “It’s a really great way to give people the opportunity to make a contribution in a tangible, communal way, without actually having to show up to anything.”