Proponents of a renewable energy termbill fee met with Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 yesterday to discuss his opposition to the optional charge, which will go to the Faculty Council in January for approval.
Gross, who told the Undergraduate Council earlier this month that he opposed adding another item to the annual termbill, yesterday appeared receptive to the idea of the College purchasing renewable energy but not to the termbill fee, according to a student at the meeting.
The measure, which 82 percent of the student body supported in the council election earlier this month, calls for a $10 fee to fund the College’s purchase of renewable energy. Students also voted for the fee to be presented as an opt-out item on the termbill.
Yesterday Gross told four members of the Harvard Environmental Action Committee (EAC) that he hopes to create a committee of students and faculty to examine the possibility of renewable energy purchased by Harvard, according to Scot M. Miller ’07, co-chair of the EAC.
Miller said the dean also mentioned “setting up some sort of efficiency program wherein the savings could go toward renewable energy” as well as additional renewable energy purchased by the University for the College.
In an e-mail, Gross called yesterday’s meeting a “good discussion on ways of proceeding” and said he would meet with the EAC members again next month.
At present, however, the outcome of the termbill fee debate appears to hinge on the decision of the Faculty Council, which will discuss the issue at one of its two January meetings. The council is scheduled to meet Jan. 5 and 26.
While the item has yet to come up in a faculty discussion, the administration has been virtually unanimous in its opposition to the fee. “We don’t believe that an optional check-off fee is the appropriate forum to address such issues,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said at a panel last week with former Vice President Al Gore ’69 and Butler Professor Environmental Studies Michael B. McElroy.
According to the EAC, $10 from every undergraduate would pay for 4 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy, representing 25 percent of the College dorms’ energy use.
At yesterday’s meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, the EAC argued that an optional termbill fee would not only help reduce the College’s ecological footprint, but also help spread awareness about the issue.
“It would make a great opportunity for education—not only would it let students make conscious choices about their own sustainability practices, but also give parents the opportunity to look at the termbill,” Miller said. “I think that having an optional renewable energy fee on termbill would open up a dialogue not only on campus but also back at home with students’ families.”
Gross first publicly announced his opposition to the ballot initiative at an Undergraduate Council meeting on Dec. 5, saying, “I don’t want to get to the point where every good thing becomes a check-off on the termbill.”
The proposed renewable energy fee comes on the heels of the $25 student activities opt-out fee that the student body and the Faculty Council approved last spring.
The EAC members—Miller, Co-chair Karen “Lexi” Tuddenham ’05, former Co-chair Zachary D. Liscow ’05 and Alexander L. Pasternack ’05, who is also a Crimson editor—came to the meeting prepared to give Gross a PowerPoint presentation on renewable energy, which proved unnecessary.
“We ended up not giving it because he seemed pretty well versed in everything that was happening,” Miller said.
—Staff writer Anton S. Troianovski can be reached at email@example.com.