Student fees lead to sustainable campus

By Michael Logli

During the 2007 University student elections, 80 percent of students responded positively in a binding resolution asking to create a Sustainability Fee.

This $5 fee is included in student tuition and, along with the $2 Cleaner Energy Technologies Fee started in 2003, is meant to help increase research into sustainable development and energy efficient advancements for the University, said Shreyas Sundaram, graduate student and interim chair of the Sustainability Committee.

For Shannon Jilek, junior in LAS, the fee gives students a starting point to begin thinking about more energy-efficient ways to live.

“I think it’s important for the University to take initiative,” Jilek said. “When everyone is given the fee, everyone can get more productive.”

However, the University itself does not choose where to allocate it. That is the job of the committee, a collection of faculty and students who decide how to allocate the $565,000 in fee money each year.

“We have been lagging behind other schools in this area,” Sundaram said. “And publications are starting to look at a school’s sustainability.”

Each year the committee receives proposals from various University-affiliated and private groups. Though the Sustainability Fee is mainly used for University projects, the Cleaner Energy Technologies Fee, also included in student tuition, can be used to fund non-University projects, Sundaram said.

Committee members then look at the feasibility and cost of each submitted plan, which generally involves statistical analysis and very thorough building schedules, Sundaram said. The committee members vote on whether to allocate funds to the project. Projects chosen by the committee must then be sent to the Office of Student Affairs for final approval before any allocations.

These projects must also coincide with a declaration signed by University officials. This document states that all new campus buildings and any renovation projects costing more than $5 million are reconstructed to achieve at least silver status with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, Sundaram said.

LEED is used by the U.S. Green Building Council to rate the sustainability of a building’s operation and construction. Structures built according to LEED standards tend to cost more initially because of its use of different materials and the additional time and labor needed to fully understand and construct the building.

However, it saves more money in the long run through energy conservation, Sundaram said.

Sustainability fee money has already been allocated to University projects such as Illini Union renovations and the roof of the new Business Instructional Facility, as well as research in wind power off-campus.

With the University working with students, Ian Williams, freshman in LAS, said he believes the fee can lead to incredible growth for the University.

“There’s a lot of good to be done,” Williams said. “I’d be willing to shell out a few dollars for that.”