Students proposed to make the optional $6 Associated Students of the University of Montana sustainability fee mandatory on Nov. 6. Money from the fee goes toward campus amenities like covered bike lots and water bottle fill-stations.
According to the resolution introduced by ASUM Sens. Zoe Nelson and Kyle Johnston, the ASUM Sustainability Fee is “a major source for the University of Montana’s sustainability efforts.” However, this fee is the only optional ASUM fee, and some students want this to change.
“I’m very much in support of it. I think making the fee mandatory is something that would be really great to happen,” said Madeleine Jones, the full-time ASUM sustainability coordinator.
According to Jones, the opt-out rate for the fee encompasses 30% of the student population. If the fee was mandatory, it would generate an extra $38,000 in sustainability funding. That would make a real difference, according to the UM’s sustainability coordinator Eva Rocke.
“Doing so would increase our revolving energy loan fund so that we could fund more sustainable projects and larger, more impactful projects,” said Rocke.
Such projects include installing more solar panels throughout campus, purchasing a combustion gas turbine that would increase energy efficiency or renovating buildings to make them more sustainable, Rocke said.
However, even though the fee is currently optional and generates less funding, it still supports the student-led organization Kless Revolving Energy Loan to Fund (KRELF). This fund allows students propose projects that encourage carbon emission footprint reduction. Multiple projects have been put into place through KRELF, including covered bike racks, residence hall recycling bins and longboard racks.
Making the ASUM sustainability fee mandatory could also help with recruitment, according to Nelson, who was also an author of the fee resolution.
“Sustainability issues are becoming more and more important to students, and the University doesn’t do much,” Nelson said.
When Nelson was looking into the efforts made by UM to become more ecologically friendly, she was not impressed. “I know when I was looking at schools, one of the biggest detractors of UM was that I noticed that they were not doing anything,” she said.
Since the student senate approved the ASUM Sustainability Fee Resolution on Nov. 13, the student body will now have to vote on it during the 2020 UM student elections. If students support the resolution, it will then go to the Montana Board of Regents, which oversees higher education institutions throughout the state. If the board approves it, the sustainability fee will become mandatory.
This is the third time the proposition to make the sustainability fee mandatory has been up for discussion. The first time, it did not get to the Board of Regents, and the second time, the Board turned it down. However, Nelson is not discouraged.
“Hopefully, if all goes well, it goes to the Board of Regents and gets approved,” Nelson said.
“Seems like a really easy way to leverage one of our existing tools for making sustainability happen on campus,” Rocke commented. “I fully support it.”