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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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Green Fund would help students, environment, SGA president says


The Green Fund, if it receives the necessary financial allotment, would allow students to use the money for projects that could help UH's sustainability. | File photo

The Green Fund, if it receives the necessary financial allotment, would allow students to use the money for projects that could help UH’s sustainability. | File photo

The Student Government Association is pushing to establish a Green Fund that would provide financing for students looking to start sustainable initiatives on campus.

UH is the only major public university in Texas without a Green Fund. No Green Fund at UH means there is no designated place students can go to get grants for projects that could help the University’s sustainability.

“The Green Fund at UH is only going to happen if SGA pushes for it,” said SGA President Allison Lawrence. “There’s no other outlet that’s going to create the Green Fund. It’s been tried before by different departments at UH, but it’s never been successful, because it didn’t come from students.”

The Creation of a Green Fund bill was passed by the Senate in October with the support of more than 120 student organizations.

SGA asked the Student Fees Advisory Committee later that month for a one-time request ranging from $48,359.85 to $193,439 to fund the initiative, allowing the committee to designate the amount of funding it wishes.

The committee will decide whether it will recommend to President Renu Khator to allocate money to the Green Fund by the end of November.

“I just want to get the program up and running,” Lawrence said. “The goal for me is for this program to stay around and to continue going on from here. I just want to start it.”

The one-time request would fund the Green Fund pilot for the next year. After that, SGA would ask for another one-time request to fund it again.

Currently, there’s no plan for implementing a designated student fee to go towards the fund, like the fee for the Recreation and Wellness Center. That process would take much longer and be more complicated, Lawrence said.

“This is asking students to essentially pay to fund grants for projects that are sustainable, for research that is sustainable that does benefit everyone, the environment, UH, the Houston area, but it is asking for students to pay that,” Lawrence said.

The Green Fund would be a less visible, but hopefully more helpful way of pushing towards a more sustainable future, she said.

The fund would be available to any student who presents an idea and plan for an initiative that would make the University or the surrounding area greener. The fund would not be not available to faculty.

Lawrence decided to make it exclusive to student, because while researching, she found some faculty at other universities were taking advantage of the fund.

She said it’s great if faculty want to guide students with ideas, but she doesn’t want them to have the opportunity to take from the Green Fund to finance their own projects, because it comes from student fees.

The Green Fund is not assured. If it’s not approved by SFAC it will be tacked on to the next SGA ballot as a referendum. That means it would be up to students to decide whether they want the Green Fund or not, Lawrence said. If students were to vote for it, it would not automatically get funded, but it would give the next president more backup when they return to SFAC in 2020.

While Lawrence hopes that all of her successors support the Green Fund and sustainability initiatives in the future, it can never be assured. Even if they don’t, as long as they assign senators to sit on the committee that will deal with and make decisions for the fund, it can run itself.

“Something that was really really important to me while doing the Green Fund is that I wanted it to be successful,” Lawrence said. “Something that has prevented it from being successful at UH in the past is that it didn’t have enough structural student support. So, what I wanted to do was to demonstrate that students want this to happen.”

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