Correction appended September 10, 2013.
After months of uncertainty following deep cuts to McGill’s operating budget, the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) will see five more years of financial support from the University and from students.
Half of the SPF’s estimated $840,000 budget comes from student fees, including from undergraduates in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS), as well as from graduate students in the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS).
In February 2013, despite uncertainty about the fund’s continued existence, SSMU adopted a motion that allowed for flexibility with funding the SPF in the face of budget cuts. As the situation stands now, undergraduate students in SSMU pay 50 cents per credit, per semester, up to a $15 maximum.
The money from student societies is matched by the administration through a variety of sources that include, according to the SPF’s website, “contributions from internal or external donations; centrally managed capital and operating budgets of the University; and grants from external agencies and non-governmental organizations.”
Although the University’s commitment to matching the money from student fees was “loud and clear,” according to Lilith Wyatt, a Sustainability Officer who coordinates the SPF, it is still uncertain where the funds will end up coming from.
The SPF has had University support from its creation in 2009 – a fact that has not changed over the years, according to Wyatt. “I would say that, collectively, for all the people who worked on making this renewal happen, that one of the most important things was maintaining this partnership,” she said. “In the past few years that this fund has existed, it’s really been a beacon for collaboration, for trust, for shared understanding, and for really working together to make the campus better.”
After the initial three-year trial period, the SPF was assessed based on “the tangible and measurable impacts of the fund,” according to the website. The fund has seen many successful projects, including McGill Feeding McGill, Edible Campus, La Cave Bike Collective, and Outdoor Frosh. Altogether, as of August 29, the SPF had funded around 115 projects.
Over three quarters of the approved projects are collaborative in nature, and around half of the applications for funds come from student-led projects while the other half come from staff-led projects. This is in keeping, Wyatt explained, with “the spirit it was founded on, which is really a partnership between students and the administration.”
One of these successful and collaborative projects funded through SPF was the McGill Energy project, an organization that helps students and faculty pair up on research projects on more sustainable and efficient ways to reform McGill’s energy use.
Julia Simone, a former McGill student, is the spokesperson and project coordinator for the McGill Energy Project, and helped create the systems map of the layers that make up McGill’s energy network. Through funding, Simone said, the SPF “empowers students to get on to doing other things [... they will] take that experience through the rest of their lives.”
An earlier version of this article stated that Lilith Wyatt was the Sustainability Coordinator at the SPF; in fact, she is a Sustainability Officer who coordinates the SPF. The Daily regrets the error.