As probably every student at the University of Connecticut knows, budget cuts have hit our university hard and will continue to do so over the coming years. These massive funding issues have appeared in different ways, and each department has various strategies for coping with the cuts. While some may choose not to expand their graduate programs, others are being forced to let go of faculty or staff members. All of the effects of the diminished budget are impacting life at UConn in some shape or form and some results have been more upsetting than others. However, perhaps the most surprising thing that will be affected due to the budget cuts is access to free, clean drinking water.
While the university will not truly lose all access to drinking water due to the budget cuts, we will be affected due to the inability to continue funding the implementation of bottle refilling stations. These stations, which are fairly common around campus, are popular with students due to their ease of access to cold, filtered water. Prior to the updated budget being passed, UConn Facilities Operations was working with the Office of Environmental Policy to fund the installation of these stations around campus. However, due to budget constraints, departments that would like these fountains installed will have to pay for them themselves. With some departments having to condense their numbers of faculty members or students already, it is obvious that many don’t have room in their personal budgets to allocate funds to water fountains.
This new ruling is obviously frustrating for students and staff that enjoy the ease of having bottle refill stations around campus, but it is also disheartening for students working towards making UConn more environmentally friendly. Over the past few years UConn’s “Take Back the Tap” initiative has been working hard to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on campus, instead favoring that students use refillable bottles. Many areas on campus do not have access to refillable water stations and some residence halls lack water fountains altogether, making it nearly impossible for the “Take Back the Tap” initiative to be 100 percent effective. Due to this, the campaign had hoped that the implementation of these refill stations would help enforce and support students’ decision to ditch their plastic water bottle for something more sustainable. Unfortunately, with few departments able to pay for fountains in academic buildings, and even fewer people willing to pay for the fountains in residential halls where they are needed most, it seems that the “Take Back the Tap” initiative, along with the entire university, has hit an obstacle in the quest to make UConn a greener campus.
The recent budget cuts at UConn may be causing a lot of changes around campus, but they should not mean we give up on our efforts to become a more environmentally-aware campus. The lack of refill stations may not be noticed by all students, but they are a small change that could have made a big difference. Now, our campus will just have to work that much harder to become sustainable.