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UCLA ‘green initiative’ fund sits on pile of cash from student fees: report

‘I am not saying music festivals and fashion events should not be funded, but those would not be the first things that come to mind for the Green Fund,’ professor says

A “green initiative” at the University of California Los Angeles continues to stockpile student fee funds ostensibly intended to make improvements to the campus environment.

However, even when the money is spent, it goes to projects with questionable “sustainability” benefits, such as “cultural graduation ceremonies.”

The Daily Bruin reported:

Nestled between the charges for health insurance and Bruin Bash, The Green Initiative Fund fee appears as just one line on every undergraduate student’s BruinBill. The $4.80 quarterly fee intends to fund student projects that build “a culture in which the entire UCLA community is aware of, engaged in, and committed to advancing sustainability,” according to TGIF’s website. In the past, the student-run TGIF committee has provided grants for projects ranging from environmental research to cultural graduation ceremonies.

But between 2017 and 2020, roughly 60% of TGIF funding went unused each year. Budget analysis by the Daily Bruin found a surplus increasing by around $90,000 annually during this time period.

The campus newspaper investigation, which looked at data between 2017 to 2022, “found that hundreds of thousands of TGIF dollars collected annually from students have gone unused over the past six years, accruing large sums in a surplus account.”

It reported:

For example, TGIF had nearly $600,000 available to spend in the 2017-2018 academic year, but the fund spent only $230,000, according to an analysis of annual Associated Students UCLA budget reports. A surplus exceeding $350,000 remained and reached nearly $450,000 at the end of the following year. TGIF was the lowest proportional spender among all of the 32 student fee funds that year at only 60%, according to a Daily Bruin analysis.

The paper reported that none of the sustainability committee members interviewed could “provide a uniform set of sustainability criteria.”

“Student fees collected by TGIF have been used to help fund [student government’s] iClicker rental program, biodegradable diningware for volunteer dinners, a vegan cookbook promotional event, the creation of poetry booklets, and multiple student music festivals and fashion shows,” the paper reported.

“I am not saying music festivals and fashion events should not be funded, but those would not be the first things that come to mind for the Green Fund,” Professor Deepak Rajagopal, an academic at the university’s Institute of the Environment told the student newspaper.

Meanwhile, a Bruin analysis from 2022 concluded that UCLA was set to miss its carbon neutrality goal by 43 years, though a campus official denied the paper’s claim.

MORE: Harvard Medical School adds climate change to curriculum

IMAGE: Disobey Art/Shutterstock

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