Fabian De Soto
Has anyone ever actually logged onto ASAP and looked at his or her tuition and fees?
For those that are emotionally stable enough to go down the long list of charges, they will find one small five-dollar charge labeled “green fee.” In 2010, this charge was tacked onto UTSA’s tuition and fees —the idea being that five dollars from every UTSA student will provide the finances necessary to promote campus sustainability. Where does the money go, and has it really made UTSA greener?
The UTSA Green Fund Committee is neither a student registered organization, nor a subcommittee of SGA; however, this independent, student-led committee is in charge of $170,114.38 from “green fees” designated to make UTSA a more eco-friendly campus.
The committee brought the Big Belly Waste and Recycling Stations to campus and funded the hydration stations in the UC, JPL, Flawn Science and the business buildings. The Green Fund enabled the fountain in the Sombrilla to flow again, using recycled condensation from the school’s air conditioning units.
The Green Fund Committee cannot spend the money they are in charge of; they must wait for the student body to propose an idea for them to fund. Committee Chair Ashley Pollock said that only three proposals have been presented to her this semester, even though every student at UTSA pays the Green Fund.
“We have not funded any proposals this semester because the process takes a while for the money to get funded due to feasibility issues, questions, concerns, and by the time the money can be available to a person, they’ve decided to go somewhere else. It’s a matter of getting the word out,” Pollock said.
The Green Fund’s purpose is to spend money in a manner that promotes campus sustainability, with over $170,000 to do so. However, the committee’s bylaws force the Green Fund to be dependent on the voice of the student body, which, at the moment, is silent. Vice Chair and Secretary of the Green Fund, Chris Adkison, says that educating the student body is key.
“Obviously, getting actual tangible stuff on campus is better (when promoting a green campus) because it’s actually having an impact,” Adkison said. “But at the same time, if people aren’t talking about something, then it’s not going to happen. Everything starts out with an idea. You get sustainability on the students’ minds, then, I believe, that there will be change.”
The Green Fund emphasizes that promoting sustainability is more than just recycling or installing solar panels. Bringing awareness to the committee through events such as Recyclemania in late November and funding activities during Earth Week in April are crucial in spending pre-existing money set aside for eco-friendly efforts.
Pollock said, “The suggestion that I have is (funding) research. Can we help fund student research that are pertaining to sustainable efforts on campus? Because I think that would show students that the money that is being taken from them, so to speak, is being put back into their pockets.”
In 2012, a Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) report was released with UTSA receiving the lowest rank compared to UT Austin, UT Arlington, The University of Houston and the state wide average of Texas institutions. According to Adkison, the Green Fund Committee is looking toward further improving UTSA’s sustainability.
“One really big thing that UT Austin has is a Director of Sustainability, and we are finally getting one. They will start, hopefully, by next semester. Once we have a head person who’s actually in charge of things like (the STARS report) on campus, then it’ll be a lot easier to get things finished,” said Adkison.
Committee member Andrew Sposato feels that, regardless of how long it takes a proposal to be passed or how many proposals there are, it is nonetheless evidence of students caring about their community.
“We (the Green Fund) are the liaison between current student’s fees, bills, proposals and the high school students who will one day be attracted to UTSA. That makes me feel good, and I rejoice in helping people fine tune their proposals until it will pass the feasibility study,” Sposato stated