UWRF student leaders may soon decide on ‘green fee’ proposal

Posted February 15, 2017

A proposed “green fee” to support sustainability efforts at UW-River Falls may soon be back before the Student Senate, says its president.

The fee — which also has been called the “greenovation” fund or sustainability fee — is an idea introduced by Student Senate President Chris Morgan in 2015. The money would be put towards projects related to sustainability on campus such as green energy investment and energy efficiency upgrades.

“It will be probably introduced in the next, I would say, week, two weeks, maybe three, but it’s coming up quickly,” said Morgan.

The first step, he said, is to introduce legislation to the Senate, which would vote on it a week later once senators decide on the particulars of how the fee would work. From there the legislation would go to Morgan, then to Chancellor Dean Van Galen for approval, and then on to a referendum by the entire UWRF student body. Lastly, the green fee would have to gain approval from the Board of Regents before being put into action. Morgan plans for the fee to be implemented next semester.

Mark Klapatch, UWRF sustainability and custodial supervisor, expressed frustration at the length of time it has taken to approve the proposed fee. It was first discussed, he said, around fall 2015, but was prevented from gaining momentum by Senate’s focus on other programs such as the “It’s On Us” campaign, “which is a great campaign, but the green fee kind of didn’t go anywhere.”

Another barrier, Morgan said, has been concerns about the cost of segregated fees. For spring semester, each full-time student at UWRF paid about $700 in segregated fees. Among the fees was $234.32 for the University Center; $126.39 for Falcon Center operations; and $76.10 for Student Health Services. Other programs and services, as well as student organizations, also are supported by the fees.

“People are concerned about… affordability aspects,” Morgan said. “I wouldn’t feel that a majority of senators feel this way, but there is some senators who have expressed that maybe, now’s not the time to create a new fee.”

However, Morgan added that a lot of work has been put into gaining support for the project, and it seems to have a clear line of sight to completion. The main challenge, he said, will be getting word out to the student body. This is difficult, Klapatch said, because the particulars of the project have yet to be determined by Student Senate.

“If you’re going to do a campus-wide referendum you need a marketing campaign,” Klapatch said. “You need outreach, you need people out there educating people on the green fee, and right now, we don’t even know how it’s going to be structured.”

The motion passed in December specified that the funds will be used strictly for “purchasing sustainable energy sources, energy efficiency upgrades, waste reduction, community garden expansion, and general environment improvement projects and sustainability initiatives.”

The main function of the money, said Environmental Corps of Sustainability (ECOS) President Natasha Horsfall, would be to serve as a funding pool from which people with project ideas can apply to draw from. However, ECOS has put forth the idea that the money also be used to staff a permanent position to oversee and advise people with projects. All of this, she said, will be decided on when the green fee is put before Student Senate for debate.

“It just has to go through all these initial hoops first,” Horsfall said.

UWRF student Antonia Gasperlin said that she would want more specific information on the proposed fee before making a definite decision in a referendum. Gasperlin is a creative writing major in her fifth year at UWRF, and will be graduating this semester.

“I would want to know how that’s going to change the lives of students on campus,” she said. “I’d want to know a little more financial information about it, what exactly how much is going to where, who’s in charge of it.”

Potential methods to get word out, Klapatch said, include Facebook, posters, emails and tabling events at the University Center where students can ask questions. Morgan suggested that student leaders from organizations such as the Residence Hall Association and athletics could spread the word. Klapatch added that professors who are part of the Sustainability Faculty Fellows, who teach sustainability as part of their class curriculum, could talk about the fee during their classes.

“It’s got to be comprehensive,” Klapatch said. “We can’t just assume students will know what this is and want to support it.”