SGA approves funding for sustainability programs

Jamie Williams

The Student Government Association approved funding for Big Red Bikes and the Community Farmers Market “Double Dollars” Program during its meeting Tuesday night.

The Big Red Bikes program allows students, faculty and staff to rent bicycles for free, as long as there are bikes available. In the past, the program has received the Paula Nye Memorial Education Grant to cover expenses, but the program needed additional funding since the grant has ended.

“There’s no telling what this start-up could actually generate in terms of not only the bike-friendly culture on campus, but everywhere else,” Jody Dahmer, SGA senator and author of the approved bill, said.

The bill will grant Big Red Bikes just over $800 for maintenance and upkeep needs for the bicycles, such as brake pads, chains and bike locks.

According to Big Red Bikes mechanic Colton Turley, the program currently has 40 usable bicycles and 35 of those are being rented. The program has an additional 15 bicycles in need of repairs and 70 bicycles that have been donated but are not yet ready to be rented out. The grant will help cover expenses to prepare these 85 bicycles for rental use.

Last semester, Big Red Bikes rented out approximately 50 of 51 usable bicycles and had a wait list within the first week. The program hopes preparing more bicycles for use will keep supply higher than student demand, eliminating the need for a wait list. In 2016, 68 total bicycles were checked out via the program.

“We’re hoping 2017 and this next semester will be the one semester where everyone’s going to be wanting to check out bikes and needing them for transportation, and we can double that [number],” Turley said.

The same bill also provided funding for the Community Farmers Market “Double Dollars” Program. This program allows students who spend Big Red dollars at the Community Farmers Market to effectively double the amount of food they get for their purchase.

Dahmer said this program supports local farmers and the economy while giving students the opportunity to buy healthier foods.

“It makes a huge impact on a lot of the lives of students, especially because the healthy eating options on campus are pretty limited,” Dahmer said.

According to the bill, approximately 4,000 Big Red Dollars were spent at the Community Farmers Market in 2016, 92 percent of which were doubled through the program. With the program, over $7,700 worth of fresh foods went to students in 2016.

The senate also heard a bill that supported the creation of a scholarship for international students with F1 or J1 visas. The bill, which was ultimately not passed, would have provided $1,000 in scholarships for at least two international students.

One author of the bill, Senator and President of the International Student Diplomats Flavio Chavarri, said he often sees international students who are concerned with how to pay for their studies.

“My main mission is to integrate international students on campus,” Chavarri said. “The number one question I always receive is ‘how can I apply for a scholarship?’”

Several concerns arose during discussion of the bill, including the cost of the scholarship and its burden on the SGA’s dwindling budget. Senator Lily Nellans said the scholarship would, at maximum, help about four students and would be a high investment for a low return.

“Maybe there’s something we can research in the future that would benefit the whole international student population instead of just four individual students, especially given how tight our budget is,” Nellans said.

Senator Kenan Mujkanovic also expressed concern that the scholarship would only be available to F1 and J1 visa holders and not to students who may hold other types of visas, such as refugees. Chavarri said the bill only included F1 and J1 visa holders since those students are usually the ones paying higher out-of-state tuition costs.

After much debate, the bill ultimately failed with a 9-14 vote.

The next SGA meeting will be Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Downing Student Union.

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].