Students may pay to go green

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February 27, 2008

6:07 PM

More than four out of five students at the College say they would pay an extra $15 per semester in fees if it meant that the College would be greener, according to a survey conducted by the Student Environmental Action Coalition and sent out randomly by Information Technology to 1,000 students.

p. Of the 355 students who responded, 86 percent said they would be willing to pay what SEAC refers to as green fees, or a small tuition increase that would go directly toward environmental sustainability initiatives such as upgrading facilities and creating an office of sustainability.

p. Now, SEAC leaders are trying to get the 250 signatures needed to add a referendum question about the potential tuition increase to the March 20 Student Assembly election ballots. If passed, the Board of Visitors would then have to sign off on the program for it to take effect.

p. “The idea got its start last semester as a response to the frustration we were all feeling from a lack of response from the administration on climate reform — most notably not signing the President’s Climate Commitment,” SEAC member Phil Zapfel ’09 said.

p. “We know we’re not going to get any help from Richmond or the administration, and these changes are pressing enough that they should happen regardless.”

p. In all, the fee would generate about $225,000 per year, about half of which would go toward facilities upgrades like better insulation and occupancy sensors that can turn lights off automatically. The remainder would pay for an office of sustainability, fund student projects and create an endowment for the program.

p. SEAC members gave a presentation about the idea at the December BOV meeting, and many board members were surprised when told that the College received a D-minus for its energy policies on the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s 2008 report card.

p. “The movement toward environmental sustainability is inevitable and is completely necessary for William and Mary to be recognized as a top university,” Zapfel said. “We are falling behind our peers, and in order to stay in the forefront, we must commit to environmentally sustainable initiatives as soon as possible.”

p. But some feel that tuition increases are not appropriate.
“I’m always against the idea that the administration needs to use the students as a piggy bank,” SA Sen. Joe Luppino-Esposito ’08 said. “More should be done at the state level before we start taxing students on these things.”

p. SEAC members, though, say this is their only option after two years of trying unsuccessfully to convince former College President Gene Nichol to sign the PCC.

p. “This is a last resort,” Zapfel said.

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