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‘Greenovation’ student fee moves forward at UW-River Falls

March 29, 2017

Sustainability efforts on the UW-River Falls campus may be given a significant boost this fall, as a new student fee is in the works.

The Greenovation Fund, a nonallocable segregated fee, was created to be used toward efforts like energy efficiency and waste reduction at UWRF. The fee, set to be $10 per student annually, was passed by the Student Senate at its March 7 meeting. The fee must now be approved by the student body through referendum.

Mark Klapatch, sustainability and custodial supervisor at UWRF, said that if approved, the Greenovation Fund will allow the campus to move forward on certain initiatives that have not been possible or have been stalled due to budget cuts over the last few years.

“Student Senate voting to approve a green fund really opens doors because it creates a fund that we previously didn’t have,” Klapatch said. “We now have a pot of money that will be designated for sustainability.”

Student Body President Chris Morgan said he thinks that every student at UWRF can find some value in the Greenovation Fund.

“If you’ve ever walked the back path and felt unsafe, this fee is for you. If you ever want to go to the Twin Cities but feel stranded in River Falls because you don’t have a car, this fee is for you. If you feel like our campus should be replacing worn-out equipment on campus, this fee is for you,” Morgan said. “There’s so many opportunities for this.”

However, it is unclear whether some of these possibilities, like lighting the back walking trail, can happen under the limitations on the uses for nonallocable student fees. Klapatch said that projects will have to be proposed individually and looked at in terms of whether each project is an appropriate use of the funds. For example, those fees cannot go toward programming.

The fund must be used, Klapatch said, in ways that support the students. Program revenue buildings like the University Center and residence halls are two areas where it could be used, unlike in the academic buildings, which are state-funded. Some of the early ideas for the fee include solar panel installations, LED lighting projects, more water bottle refill stations and setting up composting on campus.

While the fee cannot be used for programming, it can be used to fund positions. Klapatch said that the Greenovation Fund holds the potential to go toward funding undergraduate research and sustainability internships for students, something that he has very limited employment funds for right now.

“We could do a waste minimization internship, where the person focuses on trash, recycling, evaluating compost and organics collections, working on communication out to campus to improve people’s understanding of recycling,” Klapatch said.

Klapatch said that most, if not all, other UW System campuses already have something similar to the Greenovation Fund. UW-Stout, for example, has a Green Fee that generates around $80,000 to be used for campus projects every year. In the past, it has been used for a bike repair station and solar panel installations, according to UW-Stout’s website.

Now that it has been passed by the Student Senate, the Greenovation Fund will be sent to Chancellor Dean Van Galen before becoming a referendum. From April 17-21, during the Student Senate elections, students will have the chance to vote to either support or oppose the new fee through FalconSync.

From there, the Greenovation Fund will be passed to the UW System Board of Regents for approval. Klapatch said that campus administration wants a 15 percent voter turnout, roughly 700-800 students, to show the Board of Regents that the campus community supports it, and he said he is optimistic.

“I think we’re at a really fortunate point where a lot of our students, typically Millennial students, see that we can’t keep using our resources the way we’ve been using them,” Klapatch said. “I hope we’re at a turning point where our students see the benefit of what a green fund could do for our campus and how that could really help lead us into kind of a new way of thinking and a new culture of utilizing our resources better.”

To boost voter turnout and awareness, Morgan said that there will be tables in the University Center on campus where students can learn more during the voting period. Laptops will be available so students can log in and vote at the table.

For Morgan, who graduates in May, the creation of the Greenovation Fund marks a proud moment for the Student Senate after years of collaboration.

“I’m not necessarily excited to have the fee go into place; I’m excited to come back in 10 years and see what it’s done,” Morgan said.

Klapatch said that, if supported by the students and passed by the Board of Regents, the fund will start being used during the 2017-2018 academic year.