Green-fee rejection lacks justification, students’ support

If there were a good reason for the Board of Trustees’ removal of the proposed student fee for sustainability, we don’t see it.

The board’s Student Affairs Committee voted 3-1 Tuesday to eliminate the 50-cent green fee from the final student-fees recommendation. The amended version then passed the Finance Committee and the full board unanimously.

But the final proposal won’t actually save students any money, since the board also voted to increase the Student Center fee — which was already set to go from $45.75 per semester to $55.50 — by an additional 50 cents.

So students will be paying just as much, except $13,000 that would have gone toward promoting sustainability each semester will instead pad the Student Center’s fee revenue of more than $1 million per semester.

The change would not be so egregious if the student body hadn’t already expressed overwhelming support for a sustainability fee. In the 2006 Student Government spring elections, a referendum on the ballot asked students if they would be willing to pay $6 to $8 per semester to support sustainability. It passed with 67 percent support.

That was for a fee at least 12 times as expensive as the one proposed. Students clearly are willing to pay to make UK more environmentally friendly — so why is the Board of Trustees standing in the way?

What’s especially confounding — and disappointing — is SG President Nick Phelps’ opposition to the green fee. His duty as a trustee is to stand up for what students want. As one of the rare cases when the student body had actually voted on an issue before the trustees, it should have been no trouble for Phelps to stand behind the green fee.

Phelps’ justification for his vote is that “there was no clear vision” for the green fee, he said in a Kernel article Wednesday.

It’s a serious failure of imagination if Phelps can’t think of ways $13,000 would be used for sustainability on campus. A few things come to mind: buying more energy from non-coal sources, insulating buildings to reduce power use and expanding the recycling program, for starters. There’s little chance the green-fee money would sit around unused.

Environmental sustainability is too important for trustees to keep making excuses. The next student-fee package needs to include a green fee — preferably at an amount far more than a twelfth of what students voted for.