March 20, students at the College will have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the future of the College. A referendum has been placed on the general elections ballot to gauge student support for a $15 per semester green fee. The Board of Visitors will decide at its April meeting whether to implement the fee, taking into account the results of the referendum and the viability of the plan.
p. Recently, there have been misconceptions about what green fees are and for what they would be used. Because of this, we would like to invite you to greeningwm.com so that you can learn the facts for yourself by accessing the full proposal that explicitly lays out the details of the fees and how the funds would be administered.
p. The initiation of green fees at institutions of higher learning is neither new nor novel. Many other universities, big and small, and with a wide variety of endowment sizes and budgetary situations, have used green fees for a variety of environmental initiatives for years. For too long, the College has fallen behind our peers in environmentally conscious operations; our beloved school is not the shining example it should be. We now have the opportunity to help fix this problem.
p. Green fees would be split between four major areas of funding, allocated by a campus-wide committee composed of students, faculty, staff and administrators. The primary portion of the fees, approximately $100,000 per year, would be used to support facilities upgrades and other renovations on campus that would focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing our environmental impact. These projects would be implemented under the guidance of Facilities Management.
p. A second portion of $25,000 would be available to students in the form of grants administered through the Charles Center. The program would fund 10 to 15 students a year who would receive support for small environmental projects and research grants on campus.
p. Should the College decide to create an administrative office to oversee sustainability projects on campus, as many of our peer schools have recently done, $60,000 of the green fees would be available for the project budget of this office. Until such an office is created, that money will be added to a green endowment fund created and sustained by the remaining $40,000. This endowment would earn interest that can be used for more extensive projects in the future and provide an opportunity for alumni and others in the community to provide matching funds.
p. There are several who have said that it should not fall upon the student body to fund these initiatives and that the burden should be on the administration or the state. We wholeheartedly agree with this statement; however, under the current budget situation, it is highly unlikely that this will occur. The administration currently lacks the funds to make the necessary improvements, even though they readily recognize the long-term economic benefits of making our buildings more efficient.
p. Green fees are unique in that they address both short- and long-term hurdles, creating a sustainable funding program that is crucial to the success of these initiatives. We understand and recognize that several other causes would be worthy beneficiaries of extra funding. Helping the College to run more efficiently would create savings that will decrease the amount of money that is spent on operating buildings and allow for that money to be spent elsewhere.
p. One of the main misconceptions about green fees is that they would cause a tuition increase, but tuition is just money paid for academic instruction. Conversely, the general fee is clearly defined for specific purposes, an essential trait for the long-term planning that will be needed to achieve the goal of increased campus sustainability. The green fees would constitute an increase of less than 1 percent of our current $1,600 general fee.
p. March 20, the students’ voices will be heard. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you at greeningwm.com or through our Facebook group “Vote for a Greener William and Mary on March 20th.” Both sites are excellent opportunities to learn the answers to any questions you might have and to join an ongoing discussion on what green fees will mean for the College.
p. Remember, vote yes on the green fees referendum on the ballot March 20.
p. __Sarah Baum and Ben Schultz are juniors at the College.__