Students should vote “yes” for continued SSC funding

Students+should+vote+%22yes%22+for+continued+SSC+funding

By Matt Pasquini

Tomorrow, March 4, student elections begin and we can start casting our votes. There will be a multitude of important items for us to vote on, from proposed changes in the student fees we pay for to the selection of our next student senators, but there is one item in particular that is most deserving of our attention — something all students should keep in mind while voting.  

On this year’s ballot, the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) will be awaiting our approval on a measure that will ensure the continuation of its funding, which dramatically improves the quality of life for the entire student body.  

The SSC is a committee of 10 students and 11 faculty and staff members who are charged with the responsibility of distributing the $1.1 million dollars that are levied through two student fees — the Sustainable Campus Environment Fee and the Cleaner Energy Technologies Fee. 

The fees that fund the SSC have a tangible and visible impact on our experience at the University in a positive way and students should vote yes to continue this funding so our campus community can continue to lead universities across the country in sustainable practices.

One way SSC funding has contributed to improving our experience as students on campus is through the expansion of sustainable farming practices. In total, the SSC has allocated $352,550 to projects whose goals are to expand sustainable farming practices on campus. 

The Sustainable Student Farm is a large beneficiary of SSC funding and it has been essential in helping feed the students who live in University Housing and aid University Dining in working to reach its goal of having at least 20 percent of its food be locally grown. 

Even more, it serves as a resource to the rest of the student body, educating us about the challenges of local food production and how to overcome them. We should have invested interest in this as students because the security of our future depends on the development of sustainable farming methods that will allow us to sustain a globalizing food system. It’s an investment in the future. 

But more importantly, this is our food that we eat. We want to make sure that our food is properly grown in a manner that’s safe for the environment and our bodies. Knowing that our food comes from a farm run by students, for students, it’s reassuring knowing that the producers of our food have the same interests as us.   

SSC fees also provide funding for initiatives that promote sustainable transportation. Our campus’ bike infrastructure is essential to the student body considering bicycling in one of the main modes of transportation for students across campus.

The SSC has funded projects like the expansion of bike parking around campus in areas such as the Main Library, Armory, Loomis Laboratory and other strategic locations that more readily accommodate bikers. But more importantly, it makes it more appealing for students to bike on campus because many are often turned away by the lack of adequate bike parking. 

Having students bike on campus instead of driving cars reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in our environment and makes the air around us cleaner and safer to breathe.  

Finally, the SSC has funded various projects around campus that promote carbon reduction through the support of renewable energies and energy efficiency.

In the spring of 2009, the SSC funded the initiative to put more occupation sensors in buildings around campus. These occupation sensors automatically turn off lights after 30 minutes of inactivity in a room. It is projected that these sensors could create a savings of nearly $143,000 and cut 88,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emission over their lifespan.

I had a chance to speak with one of the faculty advisors of the SSC, Brian Deal, and we talked about the innovative aspect of what we’re doing to promote sustainable measures as a campus community.

He told me how the SSC is completely separated from our University’s administration and is run solely by students, faculty and staff that are passionate and committed to creating a more sustainable campus for students.

Furthermore, funding is available to every single person on campus. If you’re a student who wants to make a green impact on our lives, the SSC is there to support your mission.

“This campus is leading the nation on this front [sustainability] … Every other campus asks our students how we go about it and how we get it done.”

Voting for the continuation of these fees will allow our University to maintain the standing in paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future. But most importantly, it will signal to our administration that we are ready to move beyond fossil fuels and inefficient energy consumption and move forward to clean and efficient energy use.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.

Editor’s note: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that student fees are paid for by tuition. The student fees are separate from tuition. The Daily Illini regrets the error.