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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SEA advocates ‘green fees’ to pay for more sustainable Brandeis

Published: October 23, 2009
Section: Front Page

Students for Environmental Action (SEA) has posted a poll on the server in order to appraise whether Brandeis students would be willing to pay an extra $15 on their yearly tuition to go toward environmentally-friendly initiatives on campus.

If it elicits favorable reactions, the poll will serve as a platform for SEA to advocate for Brandeis “green fees.”

With green fees, students would have the option of paying an extra $15 on their yearly tuition—or $60 over their college career—to be put into a fund, which would be divvied up among student proposals on campus by a student committee.

Member of SEA’s green fees committee Robyn Blumberg ’11 said the club is still in the process of finalizing how to adapt green fees to Brandeis, and does not yet know specifics for the program, such as how much money students would pay, or what the deliberative process for disseminating the fund would be.“The survey is really our first step,” Blumberg said. “We only want to do this if students want this.”

Thus far, the first 100 students to complete the green fees survey have been supportive of the idea, with 30 percent of students agreeing to pay $15 per year, and 27 percent of students agreeing to pay $25 or more.

Students already are required to contribute one percent of their yearly tuition—or $375 per year—to the Student Activities Fund, which finances student clubs.

“There are people who say tuition is high enough already, and they can opt out of this,” Blumberg said, “But $60 over four years is less money than the Student Activities Fee, and students will have more control over how we spend green fees than over how we spend that.”

Blumberg said SEA decided to bring green fees to Brandeis after hearing about it at PowerShift, a conference for environmentally-conscious college students held in Washington, D.C., every spring.

Many other schools have adopted green fees, including New York University and colleges within the University of California school system. SEA hopes to have an official proposal to bring before the Board of Trustees next semester so that the fees can be implemented by next school year.

Green fees could be used for projects ranging from buying reusable dishware to use in place of paper plates at barbeques, to saving up money for solar panels on more campus buildings.

One of the advantages of green fees is that it will enable students to make campus more sustainable, despite the university’s $23 million budget shortfall by 2014.

“Obviously the university has other priorities it is focusing on right now that don’t include greening a barbeque,” Blumberg said. “But SEA’s motivations are to make the campus greener, and that’s what this will help do.”