ASUC Senate votes to put The Green Initiative Fund referendum on elections ballot

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UC Berkeley students will vote in April during the 2016 ASUC general elections on whether to approve a student fee to continue financing environmental sustainability projects.

The ASUC Senate voted Wednesday night to put The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF, before students, asking whether they support an $8-per-semester student fee to fund campus sustainability projects.

The student body originally passed TGIF by a 69 percent majority in 2007 as a mandatory $5 student fee, which increased to $6 over 10 years. If passed, the fee — currently set to expire in 2017 — would last another 10 years to 2027, and the per-student fee would increase by a dollar every three years to cover the cost of inflation and fund increased demand for future projects, with one-third of the fee returned to financial aid in accordance with campus policy.

According to Jimmy Dunn, TGIF program associate, the fund awards anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 annually to campus-affiliated community projects.

According to the referendum, TGIF has awarded more than $2 million to 149 campus sustainability projects and more than 240 student internships since 2007. Some of the projects include the Berkeley Student Food Collective storefront, the Strawberry Creek Ecological Stabilization Project and the installation of bottle refill stations.

“Since it was first introduced, TGIF has literally changed the face of this campus,” said CalSERVE Senator Wes Adrianson, the primary sponsor of the referendum, in an email.

The increase of the fee to $8 will, according to the referendum, continue the current program, cover the cost of inflation and help expand sustainability projects such as those targeting water and energy conservation, habitat restoration and environmental education.

“We prioritize giving back the funds via grants to student projects and internships,” Dunn said in an email. “Continuing as a program means it will continue to solicit and support ideas for new sustainability projects … continue to provide paid student internships and continue to shape the future of sustainability leadership within higher education.”

According to vice chair of the Environmental Coalition, Allegra Saggese, students who receive TGIF grant money will get the experience of designing a project, implementing it and working with campus infrastructure to make sure it’s utilized.

The funds are awarded by The Green Initiative Fund Committee — a student majority committee with representatives from the ASUC, General Assembly, Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and the general student body — to projects, prioritizing those that are student-led, have a large impact for the least cost and address an aspect of environmental sustainability that is underdeveloped on campus, according to Dunn.

The ASUC general elections are scheduled for April 4, 5 and 6.

Sujin Shin covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sujinjshin.