The University Fees Committee denied the green fee, citing its roots as a student-interest issue.
When the University Fees Committee denied Temple Student Government’s proposed green fee, TSG Senate President Colin Saltry, a sophomore economics major, said he was disappointed, to say the least.
Saltry, alongside Students for Environmental Action President Korin Tangtrakul, a senior environmental studies and geography and urban studies major, has been working on the fee proposal for months.
“Colin and I met with [Sandra] McDade from the Office of Sustainability regarding the status of the green fee,” Tangtrakul said. “She told us that since we met with the University Fees Committee in February, they have decided not to recommend the green fee to the Board of Trustees.”
McDade told the two students she believed the reason was because the UFC did not want to promote fees that would encourage other students to propose their own interest fees.
“The university is trying to minimize fees,” Saltry said. “They brought up some valid points. They thought it was a student-interest fee.
“It’s funny because you work on something for so long, and then it comes down to it, and suddenly they’re [the University Fees Committee] like, ‘Eh, we’re not going to do it,’” he added.
The eco-friendly, $5-per-semester fee for full-time Temple students, a roots-up movement, aimed to further place Temple on the road toward conservation, sustainability and a greener campus, including sustainable initiatives on campus such as green roofs and other potential energy-saving projects.
After TSG realized that computer issues had diminished any hope of including the green fee as a voting choice on the election ballot a few weeks ago, the organization planned a vote of its own.
The new vote was set to take place April 26-30 via survey and questionnaire site SurveyMonkey.com.
Prior to the vote, however, the UFC decided against the fee on Wednesday.
Tangtrakul expressed disappointment in the UFC’s decision not to recommend the green fee to the Board of Trustees.
“I am constantly reminded by my peers and mentors that the green fee is a great idea, and would be a landmark initiative for Temple University,” Tangtrakul said. “I think the students that became involved really enjoyed campaigning for the green fee, and the campaign helped build and strengthen our organization.”
She added that SEA members were also upset with the outcome, which came during SEA’s Earth Week.
“We have been awaiting a response since February and have received no contact from the University Fees Committee, and word finally came through the Office of Sustainability, not through the committee,” Tangtrakul said.
From Tuesday April 20 to Thursday April 22, SEA members organized in front of the Bell Tower to sell reusable coffee mugs and bags and host informative eco-themed days.
Tuesday, SEA had “Ecopocalypse,” during which the group addressed genetically modified food farming, along with trash and water pollution.
“We talked about food miles and why conventional farming is bad for the environment, both of which I thought were really important things students should know about, but it was harder to get the attention of students with that topic, whereas the green fee is something simple, and people can easily figure it out,” Tangtrakul said.
The best day for student turnout was Thursday, which was Earth Day.
“We made a Temple ‘T’ where the stem of the T was like the stem of a tree, and the top of tree was a tree canopy so it was like a Temple ‘T’ tree,” Tangtrakul said. “At the top, it said ‘We still support the green fee,’ and had people sign it and have them write [about their support] for the green fee.”
SEA also put out a timeline of the green fee campaign Thursday, summarizing a year of hard work and dedication.
The green fee campaign kicked off Sept. 8, 2009 and later that month, the TSG Senate passed a resolution in support of the fee unanimously. On Dec. 10, SEA and TSG submitted their green fee proposal and petition of 3,294 signatures to Student Affairs Vice President Theresa Powell. Two months later, Tangtrakul and Saltry presented the proposal to the UFC, with the entire campaign ending on a sour note as of April 16 with the UFC’s decision to not recommend the fee for the fall.
Despite this setback, Saltry said his fight for the green fee’s principles is far from over.
“I’m still for the green movement … I’d love to see a green roof on the Tuttleman Learning Center,” he said.
Saltry, who was re-elected as TSG Senate President last week, said he believes this type of fee still has a possibility to exist in the future, even if it is a voluntary donation. He added that he and his fellow TSG representatives would continue to advocate for sustainability.
Incorporated in the Jeff Dempsey Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency in Government Act of 2010, efforts to make TSG more “green” include paper reduction, recycling and office energy conservation.
Saltry and Tangtrakul aren’t the only ones who still believe in the green fee campaign.
“One of the girls who wrote on the banner [Thursday] was really cool and all for [the green fee] and seemed knowledgeable about the dynamics between the students and the administration,” Tangtrakul said. “She wrote, ‘We want to pay,’ on the banner, and I think it’s so funny because I don’t know how the administration doesn’t get that we are willing to put an extra $5 on the tuition. It’s such a simple statement but its true, and they’re not letting us pay.”
The UFC was not the only opposition to the green fee. Temple College Republicans President Barry Scatton, a junior political science major, said he believes the UFC made the right decision.
“They respected the autonomy of students by striking down this vain attempt by a small campus interest group to impose their political agenda,” he said.
Erik Jacobs, a freshman journalism and political science major who gave an anti-green fee presentation to the UFC after Saltry and Tangtrakul gave theirs, was also pleased with the committee’s decision. He said he thought the “outcome [was] the best possible result for Temple University.”
“In the end, I think individual freedom prevailed on campus,” Jacobs wrote in an e-mail. “If this fee had passed to fulfill SEA’s agenda, who knows what could have been next?”
“When I examine the green fee campaign in terms of opportunity cost,” Scatton added, “I am troubled by the lack of vision displayed by these student ‘leaders.’
“Presenting a voluntary green fee in accordance with a detailed set of sustainable budget projections aimed at encouraging Temple to invest more of its own capital into energy saving projects would have been a smarter way to approach this issue,” he continued. “We need to hold Temple University accountable, and it was shortsighted and lazy of TSG and SEA to think that the solution was to simply pass the bulk of this responsibility off onto the student body.”
Tangtrakul gave continuing SEA members recommendations on how to continue the campaign next year.
“Since I will be concluding my term as president of SEA in a few weeks, it is not up to me whether the green fee campaign will continue next year,” she said.
Tangtrakul said since the UFC said its biggest problem is that the green fee was a student-interest fee, one way to re-launch the campaign in the Fall is to seek administrative support.
“I really think that if the Office of Sustainability was willing to add their name to the proposal and have it be a joint effort between SEA, TSG and them, it would make [the campaign] a lot stronger because it’s not just a bunch of students saying, ‘We want to go green,’” she added. “And you’d have admin support behind it and make it not so much of a student-interest fee.”
Tangtrakul said the UFC’s reason behind not recommending the green fee was “silly,” and saw how it could be appealing and a good way to market, because preventing tuition increase is something students could get behind.
“I think the green fee is so unique because it’s students giving the money to the university and directly deciding where it goes,” she said. “No other fee does that, and you don’t get a student vote if the [technology] fee or the [general activities fee] increases or hear about anything [those fees go toward].
“This is the only instance where students have a say as to what their money goes toward,” Tangtrakul added. “The way UFC phrases [its reasoning] makes it hard to combat.”
Josh Fernandez and Angelo Fichera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.