Student government is usually pretty harmless. Aside from the occasional overly ambitious candidate soliciting signatures for the Association’s quarterly popularity contest, often loosely referred to as an election, its direct impact on student life is rather minimal. In fact, when they’re not spending countless hours mesmerized by the sounds of their own voice, I’d reckon that ASUCD officials are relatively normal and competent people.
However, it is sometimes the case that the usually benign and self-important Association presents an issue that is genuinely harmful to the UC Davis student body. It is because of such an issue that, today, this normally insignificant institution had found its way into my extremely significant column.
The issue to which I am referring is the misguided and reckless ballot measure known as “The Green Initiative Fund,” or TGIF for short. TGIF thrives on the recent trend of demonstrating a self-righteous interest in the environment and sustainability in order to appear chic and eco-friendly in the eyes of your peers. (e.g. Al Gore, Dave Matthews, Neil Young, etc.)
The specifics of TGIF are rather simple. The measure calls for the formation of a seven-member “Grant-Making Committee,” that will control and allocate a slush fund harvested by tacking on a four dollar increase to your perpetually rising student fees. The TGIF website estimates that about 60 percent of the grants will come from student proposals, while 40 percent can be used to fund projects initiated by the committee itself. While the initiative may seem harmless at first glance, a closer look proves that it is nothing but a shortsighted attempt of student government to legitimize itself by providing yet another useless service.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that UC Davis doesn’t already have the highest student fees in the UC system, or that the campus doesn’t already receive more funding for environmental research than almost any other school in the country. Both of these assumptions are obviously untrue, but these are the kind of statements one has to believe in order to view TGIF as anything but unnecessary financial burden to an already overburdened student population.
Even if both of these assumptions were valid, TGIF would still be far from perfect. A major source of criticism against the half-baked ballot measure is that it lacks any form of oversight. The seven-member Grant-Making Committee has final and absolute say over how the money is spent, and there is almost no criteria defining what projects are worthy of funding. In a recent Aggie article, a TGIF volunteer aptly summed up this lack of oversight by saying, “We’re taking responsibility for others‘ sustainability.” While such sentiments may seem selfless and honorable to TGIF volunteers, in the mind of a rational person they can sound a whole lot like, “We’re forcing students to give us money, and not asking their opinion about how we spend it.“
Another major problem with TGIF is the haphazard way in which the Grant-Making Committee is assembled. The initiative calls for a total of four undergraduate students and three faculty members, with environmental credentials ranging from minimal to non-existent, to fill the committee. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this ill-planned committee is the presence of faculty members providing input on how fees increased by a student vote are to be used. Essentially, TGIF is asking students to self-impose a fee increase, and then partially surrender the ability to allocate those funds to three non-student committee members.
Whenever I present such criticisms to those in favor of TGIF, I always get the same shallow response of, “Well it might have its problems, but passing it would be a step in the right direction.“
I understand that such an argument could prove extremely convincing to the addled minds of those who might view TGIF as a positive thing, however it ignores one of the initiative’s fundamental flaws. Should the fee increase pass after the Feb. 18-19 election it will be valid for the next 10 years, meaning those “problems” can’t be ironed out until 2019.
Rather than deal with the consequences of a poorly developed plan for the next decade, I recommend students vote down TGIF.
JAMES NOONAN hates poorly planned legislation almost as much as he hates dirty, smelly hippies. Tell him what you hate at email@example.com.