MSU sustainability issue vote today

Mar 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Columns, News, Opinions

Nathanael Edward Bassett


Don’t forget, today and tomorrow (March 17 and 18) students at MSU can vote on the widely discussed “sustainability fee”. The electronic ballot is at and there is a link to the proposal created by SGA. In short, the proposal consists of adding a two dollar fee for students each semester, “matched by the University President up to $75,000 each year”, “to be available for student-driven sustainability initiatives“.  A voting body of students will be created by SGA in order to manage these funds for those initiatives. I highly recommend everyone who reads this goes to the website and reads this proposal.

A couple of things come to mind about this; in the language of the proposal,

If students approved a two dollar-per semester fee matched with two dollars-per semester from the University President up to a total of $37,500 each semester, a little under four dollars per semester would have equaled this fall to a little over $76,000 ($76,196 to be exact) based of the 19,348 students enrolled on the Springfield Campus. If it had been in place this past fiscal year, this fee being matched would have generated roughly $152,000 ($152,392 to be exact). We don’t recommend a sunset date on this proposed fee at this time.

Wow, that’s a lot of cash from just a few bucks per student. To break that down, the amount pledged by the President Nietzel appears to match what the student body is presently capable of. It’s all worked out so that 10 percent is going to be in reserve, and the other 90 percent is split between projects that we have to keep paying for versus one time deals. However,

The following are estimated recurring (ongoing) costs that would be pursued during the first year and then continually maintained:

Annual Commission Operations Expenses:
Administrative Overhead:
includes designation of an Office of Sustainability, phone line, internet access, etc.
Ensuring Sustainability of the Universal Recycling Program:
(1) 10 student workers, 20 hours week
(a) work study students … $3.55 > $710/week
OR *30 weeks = $21,300
(b) student workers … $7.10 > $1420/week
*30 weeks = $42,600
TOTAL 1st Year Recurring COST=
(a) $31,300
(b) $52,600
Amount of 1st Year Recurring left for further Allocation=
(a) $37,100
(b) $15,800

Ok, so we still have 50 grand left for reoccurring projects… like stuff we will have to keep paying for. What about non reoccurring expenses?

Ensuring Sustainability of the Universal Recycling Program – Continued:
(2) Remaining purchase of recycle bin/receptacles… $20,000
Amount of 1st Year Nonrecurring left for further Allocation= $48,400

50 grand for that too!  Big deal, that’s still a lot of money, right?

My concern is that since the students have taken the initiative to create a committee to come up with projects and allocate funds for them, the university is going to dedicate less of it’s own resources and effort in order to ensure that new development and practices are all environmentally friendly and sustainable. By that I mean, when it comes time to approve new projects and policies, MSU will now be less likely to worry that they do right by “future generations.” In a sense, the Student Sustainability Commission shouldn’t be a way for the administration to have a “carbon offset,” or a way to counteract it’s own decisions, in the case they’re more economical (read cheaper), or more practical (read easier).

After all, Missouri State’s been doing a lot along these lines, right? I hate to rain on the parade, but most of that stuff just seems like they’re bringing things up to date. Buying better bulbs is great, so is recycling, but those are things every institution should do, and not just because they’re trying to be “sustainable.” The electric vehicles are really good though. Still, any decisions that the school makes regarding buildings or policies that are going to impact the future should be made with sustainable intentions. And the staff and faculty should continue to improve and change the school for the better, and not regulate the job of coming up with those ideas to students. God knows, we have enough to do already. And don’t expect us to have all the answers either.

That said, I did vote for the Sustainability Inititive, and I do think it’s a good idea. I just don’t think the school should expect us to pay for recycling that students are too stupid to use and pretend we’ll all come up with the ideas MSU needs.

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  1. Very informative Nathan. Well done.