Many will say that pitching an additional assessment to the student body and asking them to support it is fighting a losing battle. In a time when UIC is facing deep financial cuts, it is improbable that students will completely avoid absorbing some of the deficit. We will likely be charged higher tuition rates while simultaneously facing reduced services and a variable quality of educational resources. Perhaps the proposal is unthinkable. Perhaps a self-inflicted increase in our educational bill would be considered outright masochism.
I will ask you to postpone your incredulous eye-rolling until you have read the argument for the assessment, which would create a Sustainability Fund at UIC. Instead of being overwhelmed by our seeming helplessness as UIC is pared down before our very eyes, instead of stagnating and deferring responsibility to administrators, we students have a unique opportunity to take part in budgeting our own money. The Green Action Committee, which operates within the USG subcommittee on Grounds, Maintenance, and Infrastructure, has been planning a campaign to put a referendum on the student election ballot asking students to vote in favor of the assessment. There are many reasons why this assessment, known commonly at other universities as a “Green Fee”, would greatly improve the natural environment and the learning environment at UIC. Here is an abbreviated list of why UIC needs a Sustainability Fund:
- Sustainability is a dynamic way to improve the physical environment of our campus while decreasing our impact on the natural environment and drastically reducing costs in the long run. Despite an explosion of “green” products, marketing, and ideology within the past decade, sustainability does not take precedence in campus operations (yet!). Often sustainability initiatives can be incorrectly viewed as nonessential, and are the first to lose funding during budget cuts. This fund would ensure that UIC is not forced to backslide on its pledge to reduce the school’s environmental impact.
- Projects funded by the Sustainability Assessment would save UIC money. By saving money for the university, the savings are passed on to students. Think of this assessment as a way to make your money more active at UIC. Many universities have already shown this through establishing their own Green Fees, most notably UIUC.
- A panel of mostly students, as well as informed faculty and administrators will decide the projects and/or improvements they want to finance. You have an opportunity to be directly involved in the decision making process. You can apply to be on the budget committee!
- Because UIC is a large school, the assessment would be minimal and still generate enough revenue to be effective. It would literally cost less then a beer, your daily coffee, or the gas to get you to school. At a range of $2-$5 assessed each semester, it is less during the duration of your time at UIC than the Greenpeace canvassers harass you for in the quad. As much as I love polar bears, I think that making a difference in your own life, and enjoying the benefits of your contribution directly, is more important.
- Projects funded by the Sustainability Assessment would create jobs for students, and make interdisciplinary connections for researchers, students, and faculty. It would encourage small, on-campus projects.
- In a time of frantic finger-pointing and escalated frustration, the funding process would include students AND have a heightened level of transparency and financial accountability.
- Even if you think being “green” is hype, I cannot believe that any of us enjoy staring at dire expanses of concrete, wading through puddles by BSB, or freezing/sweating in irregular classroom climates. The Sustainability Fund could employ some serious innovation and technology. Al Gore might be a flake, but could you deny yourself the excitement of seeing a wind turbine at UIC or food growing on SCE’s roof?
For more details, read the full proposal. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to vote on 3/2 and 3/3, and be sure to vote YES for the sustainability assessment referendum. This is your chance to be a part of UIC history.
*Holly Gillis is a UIC student and Recycling Assistant on campus. She has played a key leadership role in many sustainability-related student clubs and activities including EcoCampus, RecycleMania, Sustainability Week, and EcoJamapalooza.