Sustainability committee looks to the future following year with no funding

Following a year with no funding, the Green Action Fund was both reinstated and became a permanent fixture in student tuition through the most recent SGA election.

The Green Action Fund Fee is paid by students as part of their tuition. The fee is used to fund community-proposed sustainability projects on campus. It is managed by a committee of students who hear project proposals and allocate funds accordingly.

During the 2023 election, GAF was disqualified from the ballot, eliminating the fee from tuition for the 2023-24 academic year, because they were campaigning around a polling station. The committee was found to be in violation of policy 4.e of the Allegations of Violations and Sanctions section in the SGA election policy. GAF contested the violation, claiming the polling station policy was very vague.

During this year’s election, GAF submitted a referendum that both reinstated their fee and made it a permanent fixture on student tuition as opposed to the previous sunset vote, meaning it reappeared on the ballot every five years.

The referendum passed with 464 students voting in support, 270 voting against and 106 abstaining. The fee’s previous value from the 2022-23 academic year was $5.68 in the spring and fall ($2.65 in the summer), but the referendum raised it to $6.39 in the spring and fall ($3.20 in the summer).

GAF outreach coordinator Keenan Powell said that the referendum passing has given the committee peace of mind. “We have a guaranteed future here, which is very nice, especially given the last year or two have been so shaky and so unpredictable,” he said.

Since GAF didn’t receive funding this year, the committee took the opportunity to work with SGA to clarify the language in the election and campaign policy to prevent a similar infraction from happening again according to GAF chair MJ Johnson.

Johnson said the committee tried to view the infraction positively. “We are activists and advocates … so here is a little microcosm in this university where we have the opportunity to expose the need for reform and policy,” she said.

Through working with SGA, Johnson said the election and campaign policy has become much more comprehensive, but there is still room for improvement, noting there are still reforms they need to pass through the Election Commission.

The committee also took the opportunity to review themselves internally. Powell said GAF updated their bylaws and processes and in addition to getting a new grant coordinator.

The committee has been working on adding a paid outreach coordinator position. Director of Sustainability Konrad Schlarbaum hopes the position will increase awareness about GAF and encourage students to submit proposals.

“After the pandemic, we just haven’t seen a lot of proposals, and I think everyone can attest to the fact that it just feels like we’re disconnected as a campus,” he said.

GAF also plans to increase cooperation with faculty and classes next year by visiting GPS classes and working with professors to incorporate GAF into the curriculum. This way, students can participate in a project that will have an impact on campus.

Despite the lack of funding this year, GAF was able to fund two projects this semester from their reserves. The first is a hugelkultur system, a sustainable gardening method that will be implemented at the UCCS farm. According to Oklahoma State University, a hugelkultur is “a sloped and raised planting bed filled with topsoil, wood and organic materials.”

The second project is funding for the Student Affairs Association to take a trip to California to visit other college campuses and learn about their sustainability efforts.

The SAA is giving a presentation on the trip on April 24 at noon in UC 124. “It just gives us a better idea of what other institutions are doing and how we compare. We can use that as a kind of justification for the work we do here,” Powell said.

GAF is holding their final general meeting for the year on April 24 at 9 a.m. at the Sustainability Demonstration house. The committee will be selecting officers for next year at the meeting, which is open to anyone.

“We’re asking for anyone that’s interested in a leadership position or a voting membership position to come to that last meeting and kind of see what we do and where we’re going next year because we’ve done a lot of work to organize and kind of create plans for the next few years,” Johnson said.

GAF is also holding several events for Earth Week, including their anniversary party, which will feature a thrift fashion show and a DJ. Students interested in attending can RSVP on Mountain Lion Connect.

Susana Ramirez, a junior English major, fills her water bottle at a station funded by GAF. Photo by Josiah Dolan.