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StudCo discusses green fundraising

Council

Student Council made preliminary motions yesterday to create a new Green Initiative Funding Tomorrow Committee by introducing a bill that would allow for the new committee to raise funds for student-led sustainability projects around Grounds. Council has not yet voted on the bill as it is mandatory to leave any bill that creates a new committee tabled for a week to allow for prolonged consideration by representatives.

The GIFT Proposal was first offered up for student input during Student Government elections in Spring 2010, in which 76 percent of students who voted supported the creation of a "green" fund.

The purpose of creating a new committee would be to manage funding for project grants, as well as selecting project submissions, said Kyle Guest, the task force leader for GIFT and a member of Council's Environmental Sustainability Committee. A fee of up to $5 would be added to students' tuition expenses to cover the grant funding. Guest said the final amount would be determined by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

"This has the potential to generate $50,000 to $130,000 per year," Environmental Sustainability Co-Chair Halley Epstein said. "Preference [for grants] would be given to student-led projects, so it's not necessarily just a professor with some research assistants."

Epstein decided to pursue this project after collaborating with former University student Thushara Gundafirst during the summer of 2009. Epstein and other committee members researched projects from 50 to 60 other colleges and universities, pulling ideas they believed would fit in well at the University. Epstein and Guest eventually became the primary architects of the bill.

They said they purposefully worked transparently on this project, accepting input from students and other Council members as they designed the project. After the referendum passed last spring, the Environmental Sustainability Committee held an open forum to receive feedback from anyone interested in the project.

"We found it important from the start that this was a more open process," Guest said. "We don't want it specifically tied to [the Environmental Sustainability Committee]."

If Council passes the bill Tuesday, the Committee likely would be consisted of a member of Council's Executive Board, in addition to undergraduate students, graduate students as well as faculty and staff. The GIFT Committee would be a separate entity and not a new committee under Student Council, Epstein said.

"Students always say to me, 'Why don't we get solar panels on dorms?' and we hear from the Housing people that it's just not cost-effective," Epstein said. "We realized that [independent 'green' budgets were] a growing trend in higher education and [were] a way to really combat the budget restraints [and] give students opportunities to pursue their interests and make positive influence in the community"

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