The gift of green: Seniors create environmentally friendly class gift

Following a nationwide trend to “go green,” this year’s senior class gift will help make GW a more environmentally friendly campus.

For its parting present, the Class of 2007 created the Campus Green Fund, an endowment that will fund projects to bring more greenery to campus, making it more environmentally friendly for current and future generations.

“There has been a big trend towards endowments,” said Katie Lux, the senior gift coordinator. “Because you give back more to the University this way and because of the longevity of it. Because (this year’s gift) is an endowment, it will last the University forever.”

Lux and the Senior Gift Coordinating Committee specified that the money should be used mostly for lowering the University’s energy needs. Several proposed solutions are installing more energy-efficient light bulbs and showerheads in residence halls, adding motion detectors around campus to reduce the use of electric lighting and putting recycling bins in each dorm room.

Though an environmental endowment was proposed last year, the Class of 2006 ultimately decided against it. The idea resurfaced this year and was chosen overwhelmingly out of three other proposals.

“Our gift was voted on about early August, and then this year has become sort of ‘green madness,'” said senior Ariz Matute, events chair for the senior class gift.

The Senior Class Gift Committee is selected each year by the gift coordinator and is intended to represent a wide variety of graduating students. The committee then selects a gift idea after a vote via e-mail by the entire senior class, and subsequently starts raising money to fund the gift.

This year, the committee raised more than $38,000 from seniors and parents, all of which will be redistributed to GW in annual increments of $2,000, Lux said.

“I don’t know much about it, but I think it’s great,” said senior Kirk Haldeman, a former Student Association senator.

Some seniors said they opposed the idea of giving any senior gift, after four years of paying tuition and various University fees.

“Why would we be giving a gift? They should give us a gift for paying a million dollars to come here,” said senior Charla Szabo.

“There is a strong mentality that ‘I don’t need to give the University any more money,'” Matute said. “What I’ve learned is that it’s actually good to donate as it goes towards the advancement of the University itself and ultimately makes our degree better.”

Nancy Haaga, director of Auxiliary and Institutional Services, said the environmentally friendly theme will be a great addition to campus.

“It is important for individuals to realize that we are all part of a larger community and the actions of one person can make a big difference,” Haaga said in an e-mail.

The tradition of the senior gift began in the 1980s, according to various University Web sites. Several past gifts that are visible around campus include phone booths, mosaics and gardens.

In 2004, the senior class created a fund that supplies books to the Gelman Library each year. The Class of 2005 created a scholarship fund in memory of Sept. 11 that honors a rising senior each year who has dedicated his or her time at GW to public service.

Last year, the Class of 2006 raised $47,000 and established the Community Service Project Fund, which gives grants to student organizations doing community service work.

“If the money will actually be used for what we want it to be used for, it will leave a lasting impact on the school, which I think is the point of a class gift,” senior Leah Engel said. “I think the gift is a great idea.”

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