So the SEA kids are trying to get us to subsidize their cause by giving $50,000 a year to a new “sustainability” board. Here is a summary of what the proposed $7.50 per semester fee would do. The Facebook event lists such worthy proposals as a “Green themed Pachanga,” “shower minders,” and “energy efficient exercise equipment,” whatever that means (It also lists improving DeisBikes twice, as if the writers were running out of ideas). Of course, these are only suggestions. The actual project has no specifics whatsoever, and depends on whatever students come up with after the fee has been passed. We don’t actually know whether this enormous pile of money we’re giving would have any real benefit, because there are no actual concrete plans.

I don’t like this at all. Firstly, I think it’s morally reprehensible to prioritize the sort of small improvements suggested on the Facebook over the livelihoods of Brandeis workers. Our university is in the midst of a particularly precarious financial time, and the administration has gotten rid of staff in addition to announcing a reduction of faculty by 10%. This money could save a job. I think it would be utterly despicable to spend more money on bicycles and Pachanga (which are already very well funded), when we could rally to save the livelihood of a Brandeis worker. Shame on SEA for prioritizing politics over people.

I also think this is an unfair way of pushing an agenda. All clubs have the same pool of resources to draw from, yet SEA is greedily attempting to squeeze more money out of students. Yes, I know, I know, Mr. Waizer, they’re not the ones on the board, and it’s independent. But it’s their proposal. In fact, the official summary linked to above bears ONLY the names of SEA members. And we all know what club’s members will have the best qualifications for a seat on the new board. It’s independent on paper, sure, but the entire proposal is being created and lobbied for by SEA, and serves their club’s purposes.

$7.50 may not seem like a vast amount, but it’s hardly negligible, and if other factions pick up on this method (as they should, if it works!), we might see a deluge of new fee plans. And why should the Environmentalists get money and the Labor people not? Why shouldn’t we have a special fund for the anti-genocide people or the AIDS groups or the Zionists? We can’t allow proponents of various causes to start levying their own fees on students, else we will erode the entire purpose of a communal fund. We really must get everyone out in force to vote NO on Monday. The fee should be optional or should not exist at all.

29 comments on “Why You Ought to Vote AGAINST the “Brandeis Sustainability Fund””

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Your point about ‘saving someone’s job’ is not really relevant here since the proposal asks for an increase in the amount student’s are billed. The Brandeis Administration are also at full liberty to increase the amount student’s have to pay for the academic year and use this money to save the job’s of employees. The Sustainability Fund proposal isn’t really taking money away from Brandeis employees at all.

  2. Marina Says:

    This is the worst post on your blog to date. It is full of garbage sensationalist claims and it makes it obvious that Nathan (and other innermostparts members who supported this post) does/do not understand why academic institutions need to be part of the driving force towards mitigating climate change, pollution, environmental injustice, and all of the other horrors associated with the American lifestyle. Simply living in this country and having access to all of the goods and services we enjoy is tremendously wasteful. Concurrently, living on a college campus and constantly keeping buildings, heat, transportation, and other services going is a resource intensive lifestyle. We should be putting in the necessary effort now to make our campus more efficient and lest wasteful in terms of the goods and services we unnecessarily consume to invest in our future as a university.

    The Brandeis Sustainability Fund initiative is a chance to increase energy and resource efficiency on campus (thus hopefully investing in the initiative and providing funding for changes now and saving money in the future over the long run) and make changes that will influence people’s lifestyle choices and mindsets that will extend beyond their time at Brandeis. Hell, if you care about social justice you should be on board because this will contribute to reducing green house gas emissions and reducing use of unnecessary resources and reducing waste to help MANY more people than one faculty member’s (who the university already decided to not retain) salary.

    Ideas that the project could and ought to fund may even include trying to work more with the local Waltham community to make the city a more sustainable place for all residents, which would include trying to increase the quality of life, increase energy efficiency across the city, reduce air pollution (which affects EVERYONE in the area), etc.

    This whole blog post was a strawman. You attacked the weakest points listed on the Brandeis sustainability fund’s facebook page then hyperbolized it then attacked the hyperbole. Furthermore, the contentions made in this post are an utter joke because it is clear that this post was written to muckrake and gain attention by being controversial while ignoring the validity of ideas presented by SEA.

    SHAME ON INNERMOSTPARTS and everyone involved with accepting this blog post for publicizing such an ill-informed and unfounded strawman. It is intellectually dishonest to bypass SEA’s effort to try to mitigate and address a pressing global issue as a united academic institution in the name of valuing “people”, for that is NOT a competing idea in this vote to allocate money to the Brandeis Sustainability Fund. No one is pitting laborers rights against campus sustainability except you in your horribly written “news article”. Shame on Nathan and Innermostparts for accusing “the SEA kids” of trying to push an agenda. Just to make it clear, I am not a member of SEA (although I do want to get involved with them in the future) but I am someone who sees the value of their ideas.

    To call the initiative “prioritizing politics over people” is ridiculous and only cheapens and obfuscates the debate.

  3. Dani B. Says:

    I find it hilarious that they previously (in the last 4 years or so) tried to institute an optional fee on the student bills for something like this and it got soundly defeated. Now they think a mandatory fee is going to curry the favor of the student body?

  4. Sahar Says:

    Marina, please calm down.

    Speaking for myself:
    I never saw this blog post until I read it, same as you, this morning. I had never discussed this issue with Nathan, and in fact I disagree with many of his premises, to say nothing of his conclusion In fact, many members of Innermost Parts have been for the last few days going out dormstorming in favor of the Green Fund.

    So, instead of yelling “SHAME ON INNERMOSTPARTS and everyone involved with accepting this blog post for publicizing such an ill-informed and unfounded strawman.” perhaps you might accept the point that we’re not the sort of place to demand total ideological conformity.

    Nathan is a member of the blog in good standing, and it is his right to put up such a post, even though we may disagree with it. It is our right to respond. If you wanted to become a member of Innermost Parts (which doesn’t carry very many committments or obligations), then you too could write a post about the Green Fund. In fact, if you just wanted to write a post of your own, and emailed it to me, I have and would gladly put it up in your name.

    I think the concept of a “marketplace of ideas” is fatally flawed, but in this case, lets respond with persuasion and facts instead of censorship.

    Yours,
    -sahar

  5. Matthew Schmidt Says:

    To respond to Dani B,

    The failed vote you are referring to was the student referendum on the New England Wind Fund. If you had a done a bit more research you would ahve seen that this passed with a student vote exceeding 66%, but was struck down by Brandeis administrators

    In order to avoid this issue we have decided to increase the SAF, a fee controlled and used by students. Unlike your false claims, the referendum on the New England Wind Fund, while 4 years old, actually supports a student push for the BSF.

    -Matt

  6. NathanJRobinson Says:

    There’s no way for me to address claims that my post is “garbage,” “horribly written,” or “ridiculous,” but two of the commenters have taken issue with my suggestion that an increase in funds would best be used to save jobs rather than create the Sustainability Board, so I’ll just respond briefly to that. I understand that it may seem a bizarre contention at first, and may not be among the conventional arguments against the initiative. But I think it’s important to realize what could be done with such an extraordinary amount of money. If Brandeis students were willing to give an extra $7.50 per semester, I think we should do it for something with a more direct impact on people. I am surprised that students are willing to rally with such force to give this much money to a new board, but are unwilling to come together to save a professor or dining hall worker instead. I am a strong supporter of environmental justice, but I think we ought to have our priorities in order. Layoffs are a far bigger immediate concern than DeisBikes or our lack of solar panels. I understand that you think this is solely up to the administration, but that’s exactly my point. Students don’t see themselves as in any way tied to the fates of faculty and staff. We don’t feel a connection with them or care if the University discards them. I know that nobody has proposed saving a job, so it’s not an actual competing proposal. What I’m saying is that I’m surprised nobody HAS, and that this is what they’re rallying for instead.

  7. Matthew Schmidt Says:

    Nathan,

    SImply put. You do the work, you mobilize students around your cause and try and make this happen. I may even support you in this endeavor if your plan has been properly formed and executed.

    While you may think this money can be better used saving jobs, will it have ever been used to save a job? would you have ever done what we have done? To vote against us because you think our money is misused even though this money would sit around idly while you talk and dont act is a shame.

    There are plenty of other good debatable points. Lets debate those.

    Think about it.

    -Matt

  8. NathanJRobinson Says:

    By the way, Marina, to make myself clear, I support several of the initiatives listed on the website. But a number of them are poorly thought-out, and I believe that any proposal for such a vast sum of money ought to be careful and specific in its plan.

    Furthermore, I think SEA are great! I like what they do, and I think they’re one of the best organizations we have on campus. I agree with you on all of the reasons for participating in their endeavors for campus sustainability. But I do think this proposal is underhanded, and I don’t think it’s fair for environmentalism to have favored status over any other worthy cause.

  9. Jon Says:

    While I’m a qualified supporter of the BSF, I think the best argument against it hasn’t been aired yet: namely, that creating it will give the university administration an excuse not to engage in sustainable practices. I can very well imagine a scenario where there is some horribly anti-ecological practice on campus (e.g. wasteful showers, poor use of heating) that goes before the administration, only to be rebuffed because we should be able to do it ourselves. While the BSF does allow student initiative an outlet that would otherwise be difficult to accommodate, it shouldn’t let the university off the hook.

  10. art Says:

    Solution-this should be an opt-in initiative. Students wishing to pay into this fund check a box on sage, and 8 bucks is billed to their account. As a benefit, they get perhaps priority access to Deisbikes, or something

  11. Marina Says:

    I was angry at Inermostparts because although Nathan posted the blog I feel that because it is posted on this website it seems that that all other Innermostparts authors endorse these claims. I guess I was even more angry because I was shocked that other members would endorse trying to convince people to not vote for the sustainability fund. Thanks for clearing that up Sahar.

    Nathan, Environmentalism should be favored because many issues tied to the environmental movement such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses causing global warming, energy generation and industry causing massive air, water, and particulate pollution, etc are some of the most pressing issues in the world right now. As an academic institution and a group of concerned students we should be trying to do something about it.

    Furthermore, it is amazing that many Brandeis students all at once want to do address these issues. Many of the changes that will hopefully be made are things that Brandeis should have fixed themselves a while ago. For example making buildings more energy and heat efficient should have been general maintenance but donors want to erect new buildings in their names instead of fixing existing ones. All of these wastes are just driving up our cost of tuition and I believe that it is wonderful that students are trying to fix problems like this themselves. Especially since right now Brandeis refuses to report what funds are available to devote towards campus sustainability as that means they would have to make a commitment to it. I understand why you feel like no cause should win out over another, but that shouldn’t mean that a positive change on campus shouldn’t happen.

    The fund is also what we make of it. The changes will depend on the type of proposals sent in, it seems. A “green themed pachanga” doesn’t have to happen if no one wants it and hopefully more sound ideas will win out but that depends on what project proposals are submitted by students and possibly faculty.

  12. - Says:

    The fund should be opt-out not opt-in.

  13. Nick Says:

    I believe this is the first time I have ever agreed with Sahar; this is an open-forum, don’t attack each other.
    Second, I think its silly to fragment the communal club fund by having a mandatory fee for students; if anything it should be opt-in or opt-out.
    To prioritize one club over another is silly, who is to say the SEA is a more important institution than SSIS or BEMCO? Even the AIDs initiative group should get some kudos on campus for what they do. I’ve heard members of SEA say that they deserve this fee since “Global climate change is the most important thing effecting our generation”. I call shenanigans on that, it may be the most important to you, but it certainly is not to me.

  14. Matt Gabrenya Says:

    Nathan,

    The charter of the Brandeis Sustainability Fund Board is not posted on the website, but I assure you it is ‘well thought out’ and ‘careful and specific.’ There is a detailed process by which proposals are given feedback from the staff affected by them, the faculty with relevant expertise, and the student elected representatives. Projects are chosen to be funded based on their relevancy, impact and financial viability. That is, those proposals judged by the students, faculty and staff to be MOST relevant and have the GREATEST impact will receive funding.

  15. M Says:

    What worries me about the Brandeis Sustainability Fund proposal is that we will be paying $15 a year to have a very small group of people impose sustainability projects on us. I’m not against making Brandeis more environmentally friendly, but I worry about how this will play out for the average student here. I think most everyone at Brandeis values the environment in a general sense. But how much is each individual willing to give up? I know there’s someone out there who’s willing to shower with just a trickle of water every other day, live in a building where the lights are off during the day and late at night, and use energy-efficient laundry machines. Well, I’m not one of those people: where I live on campus, I already have to shower under a trickle of water–I want more water, not less! I prefer not to live in a dark, gloomy building. And, honestly, I just want our crappy washers and dryers to work. I admire SEA’s efforts to put the power to improve sustainability in the hands of the students. And I think there are some very good proposals to decrease campus carbon emissions–a new bike-sharing program, electric carts for facilities workers (this one is particularly good!), more recycling bins. But I worry how all this will be implemented. Yes, we get to elect two people to the environmental board and two others are from Student Union. But how can we really know how these people will vote? At least with real politicians you can read about their political positions on certain bills. Will we know at least some of the proposals before we elect the board members, so we can ask which ones they support? And if they vote for things that we really don’t like, can the student body remove them from the board?

    I don’t know if the BSF will be passed or not. But, if it is, I think it should choose as its mantra, “Whenever possible, GIVE to the campus community.” Electric carts for the facilities workers GIVES them an easier-to-maneuver, more energy-efficient way to get around campus. Bike-sharing GIVES more options for traveling around Waltham. Limiting how long of showers we can take, for example, involves taking something away. When eight people impose austerity upon the student body, it’s going to feel dictatorial no matter how good the intentions.

  16. Mike Says:

    And I thought that beard shaving was the most effective method of raising money!

    Perhaps the $15 per year should be allocated to the Residence Fee or even split between the Student Activities Fee and the Residence Fee.

    Although I definitely support the BSF and am willing to look past the conflict of interest that will likely arise when the (qualified) SEA members populating the board allocate the funds to those who will put the most effort and thought into their proposals (other SEA members), I believe that a program that predominately benefits those living on campus should be funded by the same people.

    The best projects will be the ones that give the campus long term benefits. Projects created using the Students Activities Fee should typically be single events, or potentially a series of discrete events.

    Pretend I make a proposal (totally going to do this if the BSF passes) that energy meters are installed in people’s dorm rooms that show a green smiley face when consuming under a certain amount of electricity, and a red sad face when consuming too much electricity. Also, pretend that each room on campus is listed on a leader board that shows overall energy usage statistics (per day, per week, per month, per semester) and awards were given out at the end of the year to the most efficient electricity users. People who live off campus will not gain anything from this proposal and will be charged for something in which they receive no benefits. This is a problem.

    -Mike

    p.s. If you take this proposal I will hunt you down, corner you, and politely ask you to stop.

  17. Josh Waizer Says:

    Matt asked me to respond, and since I was called out directly, I probably should. Let me preface this by saying I don’t think the post is “garbage” or anything like that, and Nathan, you bring up some valid concerns. I guess I’ll start by addressing the argument that specifically references me. You say that in reality SEA will end up controlling this money.

    First, this would require SEA members to be elected, which is not necessarily the case. There are plenty of eco-reps in dorms, environmental studies majors, members of the greening the ivory tower class, etc. all of whom have demonstrated an interest in and desire to get involved in projects like this without joining SEA. In fact, someone who likes to be involved in student governments is probably more likely to be elected than a member of SEA. I don’t know if you’ve been to a SEA election, but most people there suck at campaigning. If you’re concerned about how the money would be spent and don’t want SEA controlling it, why don’t you run for the position yourself? That seems like it would solve two of your three problems with the fund.

    Second, even if both elected representatives are members of SEA, they still have a 2 to 5 minority, which isn’t enough to manipulate the fund in SEA’s interest; those two would need to also get student and faculty member approval.

    Third, the types of projects that would be made with this fee are more expensive infrastructure changes which are not part of SEA’s purpose.

    Finally, I’m not sure why this is a problem. You say that it’s unfair, but I’m not sure how. Even if SEA controlled the money and used it for SEA related projects, it would be more accountable than any other budget for any other club because the proposals would have to go through intense vetting processes, and it is intended to remedy damage caused by the students, so we probably should pay for it. It hardly seems unfair for SEA to ask that their projects undergo stricter scrutiny, and to ask for an increase in funds rather than try to draw money from other valuable clubs.

    The other major argument is that it draws money that could be better used to hire another worker. As Matt pointed out, attempts to add a fee for wind power were struck down by University administrators a few years ago, which is why they chose to make the Sustainability Fee a part of the Student Activities fee which is controlled by students. There is no opportunity cost, because there is no way Brandeis would allow an increase in tuition to hire one additional worker, and while we can increase and allocate a portion of the student activities fee towards a club or project like the Sustainability Board, we cannot increase and allocate it towards wages. There are restrictions on what funds can be used towards, which means that most of the extraordinary things you would rather use the money for simply aren’t options. It’s this or nothing.

    Second, this fee is similar to a carbon tax, in that it is mean to offset an externality and reflect the true cost of living at Brandeis. It’s the sort of thing everyone learns about in their Intro to Econ courses freshman year. When you show me how loss of a job is a negative externality associated with living at Brandeis that has to be corrected, I’ll support a mandatory price change in the student activities fee to correct it (in fact, job creation is probably a positive externality associated with our living at Brandeis because we support the Waltham industry, the Brandeis facilities staff, the dining services staff, etc., all of whom would not have jobs if we didn’t live here).

    Third, it’s probably just a better usage of funds. Helping one person get a job doesn’t have the same broad impact that these environmental projects would have. It’s just a better bang for your buck. I realize that statement is controversial though and other people value things differently, so I’ll admit it isn’t nearly as strong of an argument.

    There are some other minor arguments made in the article. The first is the “runaway” argument that other clubs will run with it. The vast amount of work required by the sponsors and the student support needed to pass the amendment would discourage this from occurring, but even if it doesn’t, the other clubs don’t have as strong of an argument. The correction of a negative externality argument cannot be applied to things like anti-genocide and AIDs grouops. Finally, your argument is just empirically disproven by every other school that has instituted a sustainability fee without it being followed by a slew of other fees.

    The second argument is that there are no concrete plans. You seem to have too little faith in the Brandeis student body; in fact we have a new decent proposal just in the comments section of this post. In a poll earlier this year, plenty of students said they would be interested in submitting proposals, and we could also model projects off of other schools with similar fees. The complex vetting process projects have to go through will ensure that only the best come out on top. The ones that you flagged as silly sounding probably won’t make it through, the sounder ones that you didn’t bring up because they didn’t help advance your argument probably stand a better chance.

    The third argument, which is sort of implied here and also made by you as a response to my earlier post, is that Students shouldn’t all have to pay a fee that doesn’t benefit them in the same way. I answered this there, but I don’t know if people read it, and I think it’s important. There, I said

    “I also don’t think that there’s a difference between what you’re saying the fee does and say, the technology fee, the student activities fee, the meal plan, the cost of tuition, etc. Taken to the extreme, that logic would demand that everyone pay per class (and each class be priced differently according to value), everyone pay dues for their individual clubs based on what they personally take away from the club, no one be required to live on campus or have a meal plan, no one be required to pay a technology fee and instead charge people for things like bandwith usage and the renting of phones, etc. The University already makes people pay the average cost to meet its needs, and that’s probably the only way most of the things it does are sustainable. ”

    Finally, the optional argument is a non-starter; while I agree that it would be nice, it’s simply not possible for Brandeis to implement.

    One of us would really love to talk to you in person about this though. Let me know if you want to do that.

  18. Scott Says:

    OH my gosh I am not going to read all the preceding comments, however.
    It is always silly to say try not to get so emotional, because people do get emotional from time to time.

    Let me also say that when I read a post by Nathan J Robinson, I picture it in a British Accent. Which I think goes to show you that this is a pretty small campus, and we all know each other and stuff.

    I agree with a lot of what was said here. But we should sto shaming each other. SHAME ON YOU ALL, for just shaming people by saying things like “Shame on SEA for prioritizing politics over people.” and everything before and after that. God I just hate it when people are making people feel shameful, it is dreadful, and i mean people do what they do you know?

    THe Brandeis Sustainability Fund is something I like, but i have this feeling that it will not do much when enacted. I don’t know I am just ambivalent about the whole thing. i feel things sometimes I, I just don’t want to get into it. I don’t kno what the fuck I’m doing anyway. why am I inside when I could be outside, i just really want to go outside.

    Props to everyone for having good opinions. Also Marina, I am talking to you in a blog post comment, and I like your passion, I like your enthusiasm for environmentalism. HOWEVER is the Brandeis Sustainability Fund going to do these things? I don’t know the answer, I am asking you. I don’t know anything really.
    I don’t know what the hell is going on.

  19. rrobins33 Says:

    As a parent, I feel compelled to add an alternative perspective to the debate about the proposed SEA fee of $7.50 for “sustainability projects”. At the risk of being extremely controversial and pissing off a bunch of Brandeis students, I would like to raise the question of why students are proposing to take a vote on this issue without perhaps asking those who (for the most part) actually fund the Brandeis tuition whether they would care to participate in the vote?! Are the voting students actually going to dip into their own pockets and produce this fee, or is it going to be added to the tuition bill which I suspect, in the vast majority of cases, is paid by the hard-working parents? I appreciate that it may sound somewhat penny-pinching to question whether an extra $7.50 a semester is worth paying, but it would be nice to be asked. It sounds like you’re all debating the merits of how to best spend a potential $50,000 a year (17 comments on this issue so far), when you’re missing a key point that you won’t be the ones actually providing the funds. It’s easy to vote to levy a fee when you’re not actually the ones paying it in the first place (again, recognizing there are exceptions). Why not go around the campus and have students dip into their pockets, then you’ll see what real level of commitment there is to raising funds for this cause? Just a suggestion… !

  20. NathanJRobinson Says:

    Mr. Waizer, thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your courtesy and thoroughness.

    1. I think you are too quick to dismiss the possibility of an optional fee. I don’t see why this is impossible, it sounds as if you have been given the runaround by Brandeis. Two years for the addition of a checkbox is absurd. Since this is clearly the option that would be most popular, I don’t think your organization should be so quick to surrender on this point. I’d support an optional fee and I think most others would too. It’s a very simple way of solving this problem, and I doubt the obstacles are as vast as you have been told. It seems more like an unwillingness of the university to help than any true implementation difficulty.
    2. I have received a lot of criticism for my argument over jobs. Job loss does not have to be a “negative externality” for us to have a moral reason to care about it. The externality argument is a good reason to care about the environment, but it’s not the only argument that carries moral force. I believe we have a responsibility to those that work here because they are just as much a part of the campus community as we are, and because they spend their lives cooking our meals and cleaning our halls.
    You argue that it’s not possible to do this anyway, because of bureacratic obstacles. I disagree. Why do you think the administration would necessarily veto this? There’s no evidence either way. If there was enough pressure (which there will never be, because we have a callous indifference to our workers), it could certainly get done.
    I offered this example NOT because I actually want to do it, but because I wanted to force students to consider a few questions: Why do we prioritize minor environmental improvements over the lives of real people? Also, why should we be willing to rally for one but not the other? I don’t buy your argument that the environment gives us “more bang for our buck.” In fact, I think we are far less likely to see tangible benefits from this than from an attempt to save a beloved professor or staff member.
    3. My concern is less that SEA people would control the board than that the Board specifically serves the cause of SEA. I know their “purpose” isn’t infrastructure projects, but let’s face it: both are designed with the same values and goals. I don’t have a preference as to who the board members are, as I said, I think the SEA people are most qualified in spite of their supposed poor campaigning skills, and if there is a board I’d like it to be full of them. My problem is more with the priority given by the measure to environmentalists as a faction than with the dominance of the specific club. I do, however, think it’s a bit disingenuous to deny the connection between the club and the proposal. It’s their proposal and their project. Their names are on it, let’s not pretend that this isn’t being designed and lobbied for by a specific group. You guys seem to want it both ways, taking credit for it but simultaneously claiming to have nothing to do with it.
    4. I argued that if this was considered a viable route for organizations looking to push their agenda, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be deluged with special fees. Your contention is that you are the only cause with a level of importance worthy of a fee, because your cause addresses an externality. I think that’s a bit presumptuous. Our moral responsibility to suffering people worldwide is just as persuasive to me as our moral responsibility to control our water or heat usage. (Furthermore, the proposal doesn’t specifically correct the externality in question. It doesn’t measure our damage and compensate for it. It assuages our guilt perhaps, but unlike a carbon tax it is not a specific offset.) An externality is only one way of measuring responsibility.
    Anyway, regardless of whether the clubs will succeed in getting additional fees (they won’t, because after the first fee the willingness of students to add more will rapidly decline), the point is that there’s no reason they SHOULDN’T have their own fees. I understand that your group views environmentalism as more compelling than labor, poverty, or disease, but others have their own logic for why their cause deserves top priority.
    5. I actually support carrying the logic of usage-based payments to as great an “extreme” as possible. I don’t believe meal plans should be mandatory, and I like the idea of being as responsible as possible for your own actions and costs. But as previously mentioned, the proposal doesn’t correct an externality. If the money were directly balancing damage, I would agree, but it isn’t.
    Anyway, my main point is actually still the unfairness of prioritizing your cause over others, rather than an opposition to collective responsibility.
    6. I’d be interested to see your rebuttal to the point about parents. None of us will be paying this anyway, who are we to decide what to charge each other’s parents?
    7. You’re right that I don’t have much faith in the system to produce good plans, having experienced enough Union bureaucracy during my time here over the course of a year in the Senate. These types of bodies tend to lapse into petty squabbling, and I have no confidence in their ability to differentiate silly proposals from innovative one (after all, SEA itself lumped all the terrible proposals in with the ones that were very, very good).
    What it comes down to is this: You’re trying to take my (well, my parents’) money without my consent to further your particular cause. That annoys me, because your cause already has a pool of money to draw from.

  21. - Says:

    rrobins33,

    I come from a very low income family and I pay for nearly all of my tuition and other costs associated with attending Brandeis, as my parents can barely even support themselves currently. I am fully prepared to pay this additional fee and I hope that others can see that it is important enough to try to come up with the money because the brandeis sustainability fund is extremely important for the brandeis community.

  22. Alan Royals Says:

    Commenter 21 makes a convincing argument as to why this should be an opt-in program.

  23. - Says:

    Alan, I was hoping to make a more convincing argument that this should be a MANDATORY FEE or at the very least an OPT-OUT program.

  24. Josh Waizer Says:

    I appreciate yours as well, Mr. Robinson. I actually agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I just don’t agree with the conclusion. While there is value to your criticism, and in the end there may not be great justifications for prioritizing this cause over any others, the biggest result of a no vote is not that all of these causes receive greater prioritization, more publicity, more money, or any benefits, it is just that we as a school receive negative publicity for not caring about the environment and don’t get this somewhat risky but probably admirable proposal passed at little cost to any one student. You just end up dragging us down on principle with no tangible benefit, and while I admire principles, I care a whole lot more about results. The rest of SEA might kill me for saying this, but I don’t really value the environment that much more than other causes, it just seems like an area that is important and we can make a difference, and I support that.

    I wrote the individual responses before I wrote that little blurb above, and I apologize because they’re a bit redundant, but I’m a bit pressed for time and don’t really have the time to carefully edit them.

    1. I don’t know the details, and it does sound absurd. Maybe SEA screwed up and we should have pushed harder to make it optional earlier. Unfortunately, the loss of momentum, required reinvestment of time, and possible logistical barriers mean its not really likely to happen at this point, and the most probable outcome of a no vote is that the whole idea gets tabled. I would however, support a campaign to make it optional after the yes vote occurs, and if the checkbox is that easy to add, then it shouldn’t be that difficult, and the amendment to the amendment shouldn’t be any harder politically than starting from scratch again would be.
    2. We could get into a discussion about whether smaller benefits for more people are better than a much larger benefit for one individual, but that sort of misses the point. While your concern is perhaps a valid criticism of our values, given the current situation, it hardly seems like a good reason to oppose the fee. The fact is, whether the barrier is bureaucratic or simply due to a lack of will, we won’t have a fee to save a job anytime soon, and this fee doesn’t preclude the possibility of that. Your stance, while admirable, is not going to create any sort of shift in our prioritization of values or what we are willing to rally to, so the only tangible effect of a “no” vote is for you to have an extra $7.50 and none of these projects to succeed.
    3. Hopefully it would involve more of the student body and benefit more of the student body than projects that SEA does (for instance SEA brings speakers and throws events that mainly SEA members go to, this would include campus wide infrastructure change). I don’t think SEA is trying to claim it doesn’t serve the broader purpose of making the campus more sustainable, we just take issue with the criticism that this is some sort of corrupt backdoor mechanism to get more funding for the club. If your criticism is more along the lines of why should your cause get the money, that’s a valid one. There are all sorts of reasons why we have a responsibility to the environment etc., but in the end what it will boil down to is, because it’s a good cause and we’re the ones that asked for it. Since the factions that we are being given priority over don’t have similar proposals, either because they couldn’t get their act together or because there isn’t as good of a basis or model (this fee exists at other schools and we’ve signed a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050), it seems petty to vote against it for that reason.
    4. You’re right, it doesn’t perfectly correct the externality in question, and personally I would have rather had a carbon tax, but it’s pretty close. I think when it can be clearly demonstrated that we have caused something, we have more a responsibility to remedy it than if we are simply observers. Also, the University has already signed a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, and I’m fairly sure they haven’t done anything similar for other causes. These are both reasons that environmentalism deserves priority and reasons that other clubs are less likely to be able to justify a similar fee of their own to the administration. But, again, this prioritization argument doesn’t seem to be a great reason to oppose the fee. It’s like the jealous sibling saying if I can’t have it, neither should they.
    5. The feasibility of shifting to more usage-based payments would be an interesting discussion; I definitely support it in principal, but it seems like the effect would be to drive away the high users or at least their quantity of consumption, thus increasing the costs for the low users as alot of the things that would be affected have high fixed costs and/or are cheaper in bulk.
    Anyway, I also think this falls into the same problem that the others do. It’s a criticism of the structure of University payment plans, which this vote doesn’t affect; if you vote no, the majority of your money still goes towards things that don’t benefit you directly. You’re criticizing the system and arguing that because it’s currently bad, we shouldn’t try to work within it and take anything good from it. That seems a bit silly.
    SEA also probably gets the short end of the straw when it comes to money allocation. We’re a huge club that doesn’t spend that much whereas clubs that take people flying or skydiving or on ski trips probably spend more per person than the entire student activities fee. If anything, this probably bring us closer to parity when it comes to a per student cost-benefit ratio.
    6. This is also a criticism of the system. It would be great to see what the parents think, but there’s no mechanism for having them vote and they currently don’t get input. Blame Brandeis not us, we’re working with what we’re given. If parents want more of a say, or students believe parents should have more of a say, then they should push for that and we would be happy to bring the vote to them instead. Lots of students also have financial aid, scholarships, loans, and pay their own way through school, so I don’t think its fair to say the parents are the ones that are mainly affected.
    7. That’s a fair point. I think that since 3 of the 7 members and the one non voting member will be faculty and staff, the Board won’t encounter the same petty squabbling that the Union bureaucracy does. I think that the SEA board would have flagged the same proposals you did as silly, and while a lot of people will probably have bad proposals, I don’t think that they will make it through the complicated vetting process when they have to compete with proposals that are clearly better. While I’m not positive about this point, I am fairly certain that that list includes a bunch of responses to the survey and no attempt was really made to pick and choose the best ones, since they were just providing examples intended to have a lot of variety and appeal to lots of different people.

  25. Alex N. Says:

    I agree with Scott.

  26. Phil LaCombe Says:

    http://www.brandeis.edu/campussustainability/climate/commitmenttext.html

    Brandeis has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050. We need to take this commitment seriously. With the Sustainability Fund we have the opportunity as students to actively participate in achieving this goal, rather than leave it all to the administration. I strongly suggest everyone read the Climate Action Plan to better understand the challenges and how the university is attempting to tackle them.

  27. Phil LaCombe Says:

    Also, in terms of the actual $15 involved–are we seriously arguing over $15, when tuition will almost certainly rise 5% as it does every year? Since I entered Brandeis, tuition has gone up by nearly $5000, or 330 times the amount requested for the Sustainability Fund.

    I just think we should keep some perspective here.

  28. Scott Says:

    Last night I dreamt that I met Josh Waizer. Then guess what happened!there was a way to sneak food out of usdan. then a volcano erupted.

  29. Josh Waizer Says:

    I hope you brought me some of this food and then we escaped with it before the eruption.