SGA to Start Green Revolving Fund

A new bill passed by the Student Government Association (SGA) will allocate roughly $100,000 to a new fund for creating or implementing sustainable, energy-saving technologies and systems on campus. The bill, presented to the SGA by Matt Foerster, Lisa Neu, Danielle Doubt, Becky White, and SGA President Justin Perry, will create a fund for projects which save energy, and in turn money, for the school. The majority of the money saved will then go back into the fund. Students will be able to propose and modify projects using the fund.

“[Sustainability Fellow] Shane Hall had heard about revolving load funds at Macallister [College], and he helped me a lot in the gestation period,” said Perry. “We continued to run with it because I got really excited about it and so did a lot of people.”

In their presentation to the SGA, the group used the high return on investment which other schools see on their revolving funds. However, not many schools have revolving funds, and by investing the amount of money the SGA is currently, St. Mary’s College will jump onto the list of the top ten largest revolving funds at any college in the country.

The SGA will invest $100,000 in seed money, which will come from a variety of sources. Because of the SGA’s recent fiscal conservatism, it has a surplus to draw on. The SGA will also spend money from the Green Energy Allocation fund, a $25 per-student per-semester fee, which will reduce the amount spent on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

“I’m excited that the SGA has taken on this issue with such enthusiasm,” said senior Elizabeth Brunner. “It’s been a really amazing journey from when we passed the REC bill to now.”

Two governing bodies will control the allocation of funds. The fund will be broadly managed by an oversight board of mostly faculty, and a committee composed entirely of students. The structure will be similar to that of the Student Investment Group (SIG). The oversight board will include a representative from the Energy Performance Contract, which hires a private firm to audit energy-saving projects on campus, so that the two groups can work in tandem.

Two ideas that Perry discussed as being likely soon after the creation of Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund (GSMRF) are reusable to-go boxes and solar trash compactors, which would noticeably reduce piles of trash outside the campus center which are currently problematic.

“Whenever you go outside there are massive piles of Styrofoam everywhere,” said first-year Michael Hullett. “St. Mary’s is not a green school.”

“We have a very evident trash problem on this campus,” agreed Perry. He pointed out that after Philadelphia put in place solar trash compactors, the city cut down on waste by 70% and was expecting to save $13 million over ten years. Implementing this same system on campus at a much smaller scale could save the college a similar percent of collection costs. The majority of the savings from that could then go back into GSMRF.

“I’ve spent most of my year securing the funding, I haven’t had as much time to plan projects,” said Perry.
“Solar is very expensive, that’s obviously one of our pie-in-the-sky goals,” he added.

GSMRF is likely to help the college get closer to reaching the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by previous St. Mary’s President Margaret O’Brien and promising the college become carbon-neutral. The next step is to bring the proposal to Tom Botzman, the vice president of business and operation, whom Perry says thinks the GSMRF is a good idea.

“It’s really small steps,” said Perry. “GSMRF is a physical embodiment of acting responsibly. I hope that GSMRF will be a model for how small colleges can make a concerted effort to promote green energy.”

Note: the article published on April 12th, 2010 did not include Lisa Neu and Matt Foerster as sponsors of the bill. The article has been changed to include their names.

Letter from College Leadership: Respect Our Campus

Since Oct. 16, 10 campus buildings and landmarks have been tagged with spray paint.
Since Oct. 16, 10 campus buildings and landmarks have been tagged with spray paint.

As you may know, over the last few weeks, buildings on our campus have been defaced with spray paint in seven separate incidents. This is particularly surprising and dismaying for our campus that has a history of care and respect for our place. Students, faculty, and staff are disheartened by this recent vandalism. At the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on October 27, 2009, the SGA passed a resolution that does not condone acts of vandalism on a campus and that thanks Physical Plant for their extra time, energy, and resources in responding to the vandalism.

The time and cost to repair this damage must be diverted from other priorities. The estimated cost to repair this damage is $2,500. This amount equates to funding twelve St. Mary’s Projects, eleven windows being replaced in residence halls, or two comedians sponsored by Programs Board.

More importantly, there is a social cost that impacts the entire community. We hope that raised campus awareness will stop this senseless behavior. Please report any information you may have to Public Safety at 240.895.4911. Working together, we can create our community built on respect.

-Justin Perry, President, SGA; Bob Paul, President, Faculty Senate; Larry E. Vote, Acting President, SMCM

Students Vote for SGA Exec Board, MAT Amendment

This past week, St. Mary’s students voted for a new SGA executive board and a new constitutional amendment to allow MAT student participate in the SGA.

The elections for the SGA executive board were held from Apr. 14-17, during which 306 students voted via their Blackboard accounts. Three days after polls closed it was announced via email that juniors Justin Perry and Elisabeth Neu, junior Kaitlin Hines, and senior Olusola Ogundele were elected as the new President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Director of Campus Programming, respectively.

Voting on the Masters in Arts and Teaching (MAT) Student Inclusion amendment also occurred during this time, but did not receive enough overall votes to pass or fail. According to SGA Parliamentarian Adam Matthai, the referendum ballot will be offered for students who didn’t vote from Apr. 25-28, and the results will be known by Apr. 29.

The MAT Student Inclusion amendment would integrate MAT students into the SGA by giving them the same inclusive rights as those given to other degree-seeking students. According to current SGA President Sunny Schnitzer, she decided to sponsor the bill after realizing that MAT students are currently not considered members of the SGA. Schnitzer said, “[SGA advisor Kelly Schroeder and I] discussed how it was really absurd that someone who is going to be on campus, who’s very invested in it, and has a lot of experience and time here, couldn’t technically participate in [the SGA].”

Schnitzer’s position was further galvanized when she realized that despite their lack of representation MAT students still pay the same student activity fees as undergraduates. According to Schnitzer, passing the bill will, “make it very very clear that all degree-seeking students, including MAT students, are members of the SGA.”

Schnitzer said support from the SGA was strong and the vote was unanimous to put the issue to referendum. This support, however, is not enough to pass the amendment. According to Matthai, any amendment to the SGA constitution must be voted on in the form of a referendum by at least a third of the student population; a simple majority of the voters decides the result.

Even if this amendment does pass, however, Schnitzer said that she was not sure where MAT SGA involvement goes from there. Schnitzer pointed out that no one really knows how much involvement MAT students want in the SGA, and whether they are going to have their own senator or be subsumed into the commuter constituency.

More clear-cut results came from the executive board election itself. With the exception of Director of Campus Programming, which had no formal candidate, all SGA positions were uncontested, a fact that likely affected voter turn-out for the MAT amendment as well. Both Neu and Hines have previous SGA experience; Perry, although lacking a prior SGA title, has co-sponsored multiple bills and is the current Editor-in-Chief of The Point News.

According to Vice President-elect Lisa Neu, both her and Perry’s main goal will be to increase administration-student communication. Neu said, “To me, the issue is not that students don’t know what is happening on campus, and that we should therefore send them more all-student emails… I believe the issue is that outlets for student feedback such as the SGA are not used to their full potential, and that is a problem for everyone.”

Schnitzer agreed with the sentiment and said that the SGA President and Vice President must serve as liasons between the student body and the administration, and must be approachable and attuned to student needs. Schnitzer is confident that her successors, and in fact everyone elected to the executive board, will embody these traits. She said, “I think [Perry and Neu] are big proponents of student well-being and student opinion.” She added, “I love [the candidates]. I’m so excited!”

SGA Vote Breakdown