During the SGA elections, which ran from Apr. 13-16, students voted on a referendum to raise their Student Government Association (SGA) fees $10 so that the SGA can fund green/sustainable initiatives on campus via a revolving loan. SGA Parliamentarian Louis Ritzinger said that with just over 30 percent voter turnout, the referendum passed “overwhelmingly.”
The idea for the referendum came from SGA president senior Justin Perry, Queen Anne senator first-year Becky White, and Caroline senator sophomore Danielle Doubt. After tabling and conducting surveys to see how much people would be willing to pay for green energy and what they would want the money to fund, they sent their results to Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall.
Perry said that they found that some students were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for green energy. Regarding the nature of the projects that students wanted to fund, 60 percent of students wanted their money to go entirely to green campus projects, 39. 5 percent wanted a combination of green projects and renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset emissions, and 0.5 percent wanted only RECs (which is what green money goes to now). “Green campus projects” might look something like geothermal heat pumps for the townhouses, the residents of which pay their own utility bills.
Perry said that 2007 was a “watershed year” for devoting money to green energy, and that the College was a national leader in environmentalism. He said that other campuses were catching up, but St. Mary’s would continue to lead.
“At St. Mary’s, we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge,” he said.
Current Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall was involved the first time that a green energy referendum passed, and said that “hearing that “[the current referendum] passed was really exciting…It sends a lot of messages.” Now, he says that he and the administration will be working with the SGA to figure out how to put the money raised to the best use.
Perry said that “renewable energy can save the students a lot of money.” Sustainability was part of Perry’s platform when he ran for SGA president, which led him to get involved and propose a “modest increase”–originally five dollars–in fees to fund green energy. According to Perry, the SGA had originally considered making the referendum a proposal to raise fees $20, but when this was put to a vote, it was defeated by one vote in favor of raising fees $10. Class of 2010 president Chris Rodkey cast the tie-breaking vote.
“I fully support green initiatives, especially upgrades that will save the College – or more specifically the students – money,” he said. “I just think the timing of this was off on this one.” Rodkey did not support the $10 fee increase as a whole, either, for the same reason.
Waring Commons Senator junior Zachary Agatstein agreed. “Students are already paying massive amounts of money to come here…While $10 is not a massive sum of money, it strikes me as somewhat cruel to ask students or their families to contribute yet more money at a time when many are struggling to pay their tuition bills or are struggling to make basic ends meet. Don’t get me wrong; I think that green initiatives are important. It’s something for which our campus is known. But now was not the right time.”
Still, Perry thinks that the fees will save the students money, at least in the long run.
“The SGA’s role is to properly steward student funds,” he said. “This is a responsible way to do that.”