Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Campus Green Fees

I read in article today in the Huffington post on campus green fees "GREEN FEES: College Students Demand To Pay Their Own Way To Renewables". The Renewable Georgetown campaign from the 2006-2007 school year was similar to this. The petition called for a $30 increase in tuition for 30% of the university's energy to come from renewable sources. We were able to get well over a thousand signatures (If you know the exact number, please post). The University did take note of the petition (presented by Alex Johnston); however, what we got was different...

The University said that it would explore options for renewable energy with the other universities in DC. Much of Georgetown's energy comes from nuclear power--not fossil-fuel based but not free of potential drawbacks. Nevertheless, the main result as the creation of a Sustainability Action Committee for students, faculty, and staff. This committee which meets at irregular intervals is used as a talking session, but unfortunately and to its major disadvantage, it has no money allotted to it. Consequently, the awareness of such a committee on campus and its ability to affect real change has appeared limited so far. It has been a progress, but sustainability is not a destination, but a journey--and this journey has only begun.

A few of the schools on the list of universities with green fees caught my attention. The following schools have fees set up to promote on campus projects only (i.e. not off campus projects as well). The College of William and Mary and UNC-Chapel Hill both caught my attention, especially because the latter is a noted basketball rival.

* The College Of William and Mary
* Northeastern Illinois University
* Northland College
* Appalachian State University
* Bemidji State University
* University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
* University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Would Georgetown students be willing to accept a green fee? We could probably start another petition and, if marketed well, have good results. However, would it run into the obstacle of being associated with all of the other fees that we pay that seem to have no direct impact on us? The activities fee leaves a large unused endowment, and a green fee/fund could run into problems if not used and if not made directly relevant to the improvement of student life.

However, as the other universities begin to champion such causes and the Pope being vocal about the issue
himself, there are clear reasons for Georgetown to assert itself as a force for college sustainability. It could be a powerful re-establishment of Georgetown's commitment to ethics and integrity, a part of its pursuit of excellence, and a way to reinvigorate the emphasis on social and universal good inherent in the Catholic/Jesuit identity.

Photo from www.broadgatebusinessfinancial.com

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