Can the Senate executive board afford a sixth position, complete with a $6,500 stipend and the full-fledged list of duties and responsibilities that accompany a vice presidential position on USF’s student government? Yes.
If a referendum is voted in by the students on April 16-19, that sixth position—vice president of sustainability—will be up and running in time for the 2012-2013 academic year. The sustainability vice president would be joining the Senate president and the vice presidents of internal affairs, business administration, public relations, and mission in heading the only undergraduate government body on campus.
For USF, already an environmentally conscious institution at the student, faculty and administrative levels, USF’s concern for sustainability would seem to be a given. That’s hardly a surprise, considering that our host city, San Francisco, is a model of sustainability for other cities around the nation and around the world.
But unlike the Student Activity Fee ballot measure, the new VP measure was not approved by the Senate. Instead, the initiative earned its place on the mid-April ballot a second way, through petitioning students. 727 signatures were collected, far exceeding the 560 signatures (10% of undergrads) needed to put something up for a vote.
The successful petition showed there is more than enough student interest in seeing an institutionalized and centralized student voice specifically for sustainability, but also revealed there were doubts within the Senate about the implication of having an entirely new e-board position. After all, other clubs on campus address sustainability and environmental issues; why can’t those clubs form a funded account, similar to the CFCC for culturally focused clubs at USF? Why does this require a stipend-ed vice president? What would she or he be doing?
Having a VP of sustainability is more time and cost-effective alternative to the creation of an entirely new funded account dedicated to environmental issues on campus; the latter requires an entirely new constitution, office space, the creation and vetting of officers, a detailed budget annually, and so on. Establishing a new vice-president makes use of a strong and existent Senate infrastructure where resources and regular access to university leadership create the opportunity for a streamlined and comprehensive dialogue between students and the administration on sustainability topics.
Right away, a VP of sustainability would be responsible for administering the Green Initiative Fund for Tomorrow (GIFT), which comprises $2 of every $82 each student pays as their student activity fee. Managing that fund, as the Senate’s 7-member sustainability committee can testify, requires many hours of work. Those duties would be led by the new vice president, who would also have to come up with new and creative ways to effectively use that money.
A VP of sustainability is a worthwhile investment for the student body, and this transitional first year will either prove us right or wrong. If the second outcome is true, undergrads won’t have to be stuck with the new position for all time; in that case, it will just be time for another petition.