Referendum approved by U.Va. voters
Approved proposal offers support for creation of sustainability house
From Brown College to the language houses, the University features a number of housing options geared toward specific student interests. Of the students who voted on last week’s referendum, a majority would like to see a “green” option added to the University’s offerings.
Of the 1,697 students who voted, 1,570 approved the initiative to support the creation of a sustainability house, and 127 voted against it, according to University Board of Elections Chair Alisa Abbott.
According to the referendum, “This house would provide university housing to 10-20 upperclassmen students with programming focused on sustainable living, including reduced energy and water use, a garden, composting, and other projects to try to make living in Charlottesville ‘green.’”
Rather than constructing a new building, a current house in Charlottesville would be retrofitted to “provide a model for sustainable living in pre-existing buildings and a space for educational and research opportunities in an interdisciplinary community atmosphere.”
Abbott said she was pleased with the voter turnout for the referendum.
“UBE did as much as it could to advertise and publicise via flyering [and] e-mails,” Abbott said. “We tried to do as much environmentally-kind advertising as we could, considering the nature of the referendum, so there probably wasn’t as much flyering as usual.”
Though few people voted against the referendum, Abbott said she could see both sides of the issue.
“People might think it could end up being really expensive,” Abbott said. “I’m not really surprised [by the results] but I do understand why both sides would want to vote a certain way.”
Regardless of the differing opinions, Mark Williams, a member of the Student Council Environmental Sustainability Committee and task force leader of this particular project, said he thought the voter turnout was “really tremendous.”
About six percent of the student body voted, Williams said, which he noted is unusual, especially for a fall referendum.
“This being the only referendum on the ballot really could have decreased our turnout,” he said. “The results show strong evidence that U.Va. students are totally in support of sustainability.”
Now that the idea has received support through this referendum, Williams said his committee will continue to work in cooperation with the Office of the Architect to develop a complete proposal for the house.
“Ultimately it boils down to finding money for the project, through the administration or through private donors,” he explained.
Though at this point the plans are only conceptual, the committee has worked out a proposal for how students would be chosen to live in the house.
“It would be much like Brown College,” he said, adding that students who are “actively living” in the house would choose the next group of students to enter the house. Williams stressed, however, that at this point “nothing is confirmed.”
As far as a timeline for the project, Williams said his committee is currently playing it by ear.
“Of course we would like to have it by next fall but it really just depends on the administration and how fast they work with this,” he said. “It hasn’t been approved by any means yet ... but the students [involved] are pushing as fast as they can.”
Student Council President Matt Schrimper said the University has been very receptive to working on this project with the committee.
“I think this [referendum] will be very important as we try to work with the University to make this a reality,” he said. “I believe this was the single largest turnout for any fall referendum, and I think it’s a testament to the work that the environmental sustainability committee has done getting people excited about sustainability at the University.”