The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U fight of gun ban was unwarranted political campaign

By Aaron Zundel

Discretionary funds, by nature, are problematic. The issue comes from the fact that discretion is usually the last thing on people’s minds when they have access to large piles of “no-strings-attached” money. Take, for instance, the total lack of discretion on the part of former University of Utah President Bernard Machen.

Since 2002, the U has spent over $300,000 fighting over a gun ban that it can’t even enforce. And while the money comes out of the president’s private discretionary endowment and not student fees (thank goodness) the fact that the U is burning through a substantial amount of money for nothing more than the gratification of an ideological gain is disgraceful.

One would have hoped that current University of Utah President Michael Young would have had the sense to reverse Machen’s rash expenditures when he took over the office of president in 2004, but instead he has continued to pour money into a fight he cannot win.

In a recent interview, Young told The Chronicle that he would not “second guess” his predecessor when it came to Machen’s decision to pursue legal action against Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s legal opinion about guns on campus. Too bad for them that the recent decision by the Utah Supreme Court fell on Shurtleff’s side of the fence, effectively abolishing the gun ban.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the U is back where it started–sans a bunch of money.

Some students, such as Homayoun Hetazi, a senior in biology, agree with Young’s decision to continue to fight the gun ban.

“$300,000?” Hetazi asked. “Discretionary funds? Good for him.”

But I take issue with that sort of idealistic viewpoint. Not that fighting for what you believe in is wrong–it’s not–but you have to pick and choose your battles. Preferably, you choose the ones that you can win.

Since the beginning of the gun ban dispute, the law has been quite clear on the rights of gun owners to carry their guns. To further clarify the law in the face of the lawsuit, legislators amended it to make sure that there was no ambiguity concerning the matter. Despite all that, the university continued to throw money at the issue, all just to prove a point.

I don’t buy the administration’s argument that its only goal in fighting the gun ban is to keep students safe. Even if the U could have miraculously convinced the Utah Supreme Court that the gun ban was, in fact, constitutional, there would have been no way at all to enforce it. Even if the U won, it would be worthless except on an ideological level.

$300,000 is a lot of money to spend on ideals.

That kind of cash, despite being at the discretion of the president, could have been put to much better use on a campus where the price of tuition is darting upward, parking space is at a premium and money for many programs is scarce.

Unlike Hetazi, many other students, like me, have problems with a president who puts personal ideology in front of the U itself.

Steve Evens, a junior in linguistics and international studies, said, “That’s a lot of money to spend on something you can’t prevent anyways. There’s a lot better ways to spend that much money. OSH could use it. That’s a pretty disgusting building. One time I went in the basement and there was brown water running from the ceiling and pooling all over the floor.”

The same argument could be applied to Mark Shurtleff and the local government’s insistence on battling the U’s policies–no doubt they’ve also spent a fair amount of money. Precious taxpayer money. But at least Shurtleff has an excuse: As attorney general, he has a responsibility to uphold state law.

Presidents Machen and Young, on the other hand, have a responsibility to the students they serve–not to advance their own political agendas.

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