Senate votes down Green Fund initiative
The Student Association Senate voted not to include a constitutional amendment to increase annual student fees to support the Green Fund on the general election ballot by a vote of 12 yes to nine no, with five members abstaining. The amendment would have required two-thirds yes votes to move to a campus-wide ballot.
“It’s sad to see it not pass, but I’m still happy because a discussion was started on funding,” Grace Wickerson, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said. “I don’t think this is the end, I just think maybe this isn’t the best route.”
According to the SA Constitution, the amendment would have required a two-thirds majority of a student body-wide vote had it passed the Senate, and it could still go up for a campus-wide vote as an initiative if five percent of the student body expressed support for it in a petition.
However, Wickerson said the sponsors of the Green Fund proposal, which would have increased student fees by $3.50, would not attempt to push the vote in an initiative, though she said discussion of the proposal signaled that students are interested in securing environmental sustainability funding.
“I think Senate did do their due diligence in this process, and in the end I do respect their votes, so I don’t think it’s right for us to try and go around them,” Wickerson said. “I think it’s good for us to regroup and work with the new blanket tax committee and their openness to this idea.”
The Blanket Tax Committee released a report to the Senate last week recommending against the proposal, stating that there is not a clear need for the program, the program lacks a clear financial plan, and the creation of the fund through the SA would set a dangerous precedent of aspiring organizations circumventing the Blanket Tax Committee.
Tanner Reese, a Martel College junior, said the Blanket Tax Committee report opposing the Green Fund is inconsistent, and the increase in fees would be an opportunity for student innovation.
“Keep in mind that all they’re asking for is $3.50, which is roughly the cost of a tall coffee frappuccino from Starbucks,” Reese said. “I understand some may feel as if it’s unjust for students to pay for this in general, but we live in a very negative political environment, and I prefer to think of it more as an opportunity.”
On Monday, the Blanket Tax Committee presented the report recommending against the passage of the proposal, addressing changes made to the proposal such as specifying that surplus funds would be directed to the Initiative Fund and placing the fund under Blanket Tax Committee oversight.
“We just really wanted to be good stewards of student fees and we also want to take into consideration that some people might be worried about financial concerns,” Deputy Treasurer of the Blanket Tax Committee Christina Lee said. “It’s a really good initiative and there are really good intentions behind it but we think that within the system there are probably areas for improvement.”
More from The Rice Thresher
Sixty Rice students watched from the crowd as ten presidential candidates spoke on stage at the third Democratic primary debate at Texas Southern University on Thursday evening. On campus, around 40 more students attended the Rice University Young Democrats’ watch party in Duncan Hall.
Rice dropped a place in the recently released 2020 U.S. News & World Report National Universities rankings, tying with Cornell University at No. 17. Last year, Rice was tied with Cornell at No. 16 and the previous year Rice was in a four-way tie for No. 14.
In an email sent out to the Rice community, President David Leebron and Interim Provost Seiichi Matsuda gave an update on the task force on slavery, segregation and racial injustice, including the expected budget, timline and the new co-chairs, professors Alexander X. Byrd and Caleb McDaniel.