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Letter to the Editor:

By Michael Donatti     2/4/14 6:00pm

After reading the Thresher's coverage of the Rice Environmental Society's (RES) request for a $9 blanket tax, I wish to clarify the way RES will function. Putting funding into sustainability at Rice is especially important after the Rice Endowment for Sustainable Energy Technology (RESET) lost its $9 blanket tax last year due to insufficient voter turnout.

Most importantly, the structure of RES as set in its constitution prevents any one organization from monopolizing the funds. If the student body supports a blanket tax, 90 percent will go into an "initiatives" fund and 10 percent will go into a "flex" fund. 

The initiatives fund (about $30,600) will be accessible to any individual student at Rice through RESET's existing application. When a student proposes a project, the RES board, which consists of one delegate from each of the member organizations-Rice Bikes, the EcoReps, RESET, RSVP Environmental Committee, the Environmental Club, the Student Association Environmental Committee and Real Food Revolution, approves the project through a three-fourths majority vote. While RESET is only a member organization like any other, RES will use its infrastructure to accept student proposals.

The flex fund (about $3,400) is open to RES's member organizations. To access it, a member organization proposes its environmental project or program, and the RES board approves it through a three-fourths majority vote. New environmental organizations that form on campus can also apply to become members of RES.

The percentage breakdown reflects how much of its blanket tax RESET tended to use in the past for individual student projects. RES uses the remaining 10 percent to give the member organizations, which already support RES's mission, an opportunity to do more good work. It protects most of the money (the 90 percent) for student-initiated projects, opening the benefit of the blanket tax to all students. The percentage breakdown will also be open to review each year to leave room for improvements.

RES requests $9 per student because funding environmental improvement projects is costly. For example, when RESET made 86 toilets on campus dual-flush, the initial cost was over $20,000, even though this move saved money in the long run. The Blanket Tax Standing Committee agreed the amount was reasonable and highly recommended RES for student approval; the committee will continue to review the amount of the blanket tax each year if the student body approves RES in the SA general elections.

RES is more than a new identity. While it certainly strengthens the image of environmentalism and sustainability at Rice, it acts as much more than a new name for the union of Rice's many environmental groups. With blanket tax funding, it will support tangible reductions in Rice's environmental impact. Because of RESET's existing infrastructure for receiving student project ideas, RES can get to work immediately.

Ultimately, RES's mission is to further the Rice 100-Year Sustainability Plan, which the student senate passed two years ago. Because of its structure of checks and balances, RES is prepared to support its mission and spend student dollars effectively. RES needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass, so it is important that the student body turns out to vote.

Michael Donatti

Duncan College Senator, Co-Founder of RES

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