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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Commentary: Vote No to Green Initiative Slush Fund

By Derick Lennox

Don't be duped into raising your own student fees.

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) is a campus ballot measure that attempts to mislead students into funding a $269,000 special interest slush fund. A history of unfulfilled promises at other UC campuses has proven that for TGIF, "greed" has become the new "green."

UC Davis would not be the first campus to be let down by TGIF's big promises. The same program has been implemented at other UC schools, such as Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. In each case, voters were lured by the chance to "develop, propose, and enact sustainable projects" using the collected student fees. In the past two years, TGIF has racked up over a half-million dollars in unused grant money at these three UC campuses. In hindsight, that money should have stayed in students' pockets to pay for the increasing price of education.

We should learn from others' mistakes.

Less than half of the proposed Davis fees will go to student grants. The rest will be spent on a $40,000 staff position, while an estimated $30,000 would be needed for office and accounting services, according estimates from a Student Services and Fees Administrative Advisory Committee meeting. Thankfully, the most useful misdirection of "green" funds would be the 25 percent spent on university-required return-to-aid, assisting PELL-grant eligible students. And with the average public university student graduating with over $10,000 in debt, why not spend all the money on financial assistance instead?

In tough economic times, only greedy special interests would want to tax us doubly. Thank goodness, this is one fee hike to which we can say "no." After all, James Quinn, professor and co-director of the information center for the environment, reminds us that UC Davis receives more environmental research funding than almost any other school in the country.

Since 2002, statewide UC fees have more than doubled. And already, UC Davis has the highest campus-based fees in the system—three-times greater than at campuses like UCLA. Budget shortfalls almost forced us to say farewell to many needed services last spring at the Learning Skills Center, financial aid office, and campus recreation (just to name a few). Despite expecting another fee hike next year, TGIF makes no effort to respect our financial burden.

The possibility of financial abuse is ripe as this seven-member committee decides how to spend your money. The current language of the initiative should offend any person in favor of responsible governance. Appointments from the university administration—not students—will fill three positions on this student fees committee. Meanwhile, half the student members will have a mandated connection with the same environmental advocacy communities that will be receiving the grants.

If your intuition shouts "conflict of interest!" then you're not alone. Opponents to this boongoggle include the president of Davis College Democrats, the chair of Davis College Republicans, and the ASUCD president, controller, and University Affairs director.

Numbers aside, you may think that this is just a quarterly $4 fee—the price of a fancy latte or trip to the Coffee House. But remember, this fee will not help the environment or create sustainability. If history rings true, TGIF will misuse hundreds of thousands of dollars at the cost of many UC Davis generations to come.

With these facts in mind, students should take pride in not being cajoled into fronting the cash for a special interest slush fund. Let's vote together to defeat this ill-conceived initiative on February 18 and 19 at

Derick Lennox is a fourth-year undergraduate and member of the "No on TGIF" campaign.