ASUU leaders fly to Boston near term end

In an effort to make student groups and legislators more accountable with student fee disbursement, the Associated Students of the University of Utah spent about $2,500 to send three outgoing leaders to Boston to examine how other colleges run their student governments.

Of the ideas they brought back to incoming ASUU leaders Alex Lowe and Bobby Harrington, none will be implemented, according to Andrea Muhlestein, who went on the trip.

Some within ASUU questioned whether it was a sound financial decision and whether the timing of the trip was right for current President Adrian Johnson, Vice President Anthony White and General Assembly Vice Chairperson Muhlestein, who only have about one month of service left.

“I really think it’s kind of silly to have it this late in the year,” said Alicia Taase, director of campus relations. She also said they could have at least taken Lowe or Harrington, the ASUU president- and vice president elect, with them.

But the three who made the journey to the East Coast are defending their decision.

“We have a month left,” said Johnson. “We’re still in office…we’re not done.”

White described the reasons the group selected Boston as its final destination.

“We thought Boston had the most prestigious schools in the nation. They’re so much different from us [and] their student governments have been around the longest,” he said.

“If we’re in the pursuit of excellence, we’re going to visit the most excellent institutions,” added Johnson. “We’re trying to make this the best student government, period.”

The two leaders failed to mention another set of circumstances that may have caused them to fly east.

According to Muhlestein, an ASUU secretary bought some nonrefundable airline tickets by accident. Rather than letting them “go to waste,” Muhlestein said, ASUU used them toward the Boston flights.

When asked if the three would have gone if the ticket mistake hadn’t been made, Muhlestein said, “Oh no, for sure we wouldn’t have.”

The administration visited Northeastern University, Boston College, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to collect ideas on how to improve the U’s system.

One of those ideas is to create an Internet database that would contain records of how the General Assembly has allocated student fees to all student groups in the past. Assembly representatives could hypothetically check what equipment had been funded previously and avoid paying student groups more than once for the equipment, according to Johnson.

As of now, ASUU can’t say exactly where student fee funded equipment, such as board games, is located. The database would also help to keep track of that equipment.

However, the database used at MIT may not be affordable for the less prestigious, commuter-campus U.

“I wouldn’t say [the Web database] is super realistic because it’s very expensive to do, especially when you could do something on [Microsoft] Excel for free,” Muhlestein said. She added that “anyone who wants to come in and find out where the expenditures have gone can find that out on an ASUU computer.”

Instead, Lowe and Harrington are interested in requiring all student groups to get at least two bids on funding requests for more than $200.

Though the trip seemed to be more of an accident than a budgeted plan, Taase said she thought the three leaders had the best intentions. Johnson agrees.

“We feel good about the decisions we made. We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t feel good about it,” he said.

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