ASUU legislators question sustainability fee

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

As campus departments are facing budget cuts, the ASUU Sustainability Board is proposing a $5 student fee increase to help pay for sustainability projects aimed at lowering utility costs.

At an information session Thursday night about the increase, the board’s directors faced questions from one member from bothh the ASUU General Assembly and the Senate. The initiative will have to be passed by two committees before it can be voted on by the entire student assembly.

The Sustainable Campus Initiative proposes to create a new $5 student fee each semester to fund student-led sustainable projects on campus. The initiative puts the responsibility of deciding which projects to fund on the shoulders of an allocations committee appointed by the Associated Students of the University of Utah president, the Office of Sustainability and campus administrators.

As one of only two student legislators in attendance, Kassi Goodwin, senator for the College of Science, expressed hesitance about the fee, saying students already have access to funds for any sort of student-led project.

“I support the student voices that you’re representing and the efforts that you’ve put in, but students don’t even know about their options now,” Goodwin said. “Student government is so under-utilized.”

Dallas Hamilton, the co-director for the Sustainability Board who designed the initiative, said budget cuts have made it difficult to otherwise fund these projects.

“It’s (potentially) a lot of money that the U doesn’t really have to lend (for sustainability upgrades) right now,” he said. “It’s empowering for students to have access to financial backing.”

Jennifer McGill, the assembly representative from the University College, said she worries students won’t use the money.

“I’m scared of not getting enough project (proposals),” she said.

Jessica Scharf, co-director of the sustainability board, agreed that the effectiveness of initiative would depend on the involvement of students. Scharf said there are plenty of students from ASUU and the organization Sustainable Environments and Ecological Design and the Office of Sustainability who would want to get involved.

Hamilton said that graduate students already engaged in sustainable research projects would probably bring the first proposals to the allocations committee.

He also stressed the environmental importance of the effort.

“We (as a university) are this huge polluting force, when you reduce those impacts it benefits everyone in the community,” he said.

Goodwin, however, left the session asking, “Why can’t student government take care of it?”

She said there is already a system in place for student projects and that students already pay nearly $400 in fees.

“I’m still against raising student fees for anything,” she said.

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Nick Andrew

Jessica Schard, Casi Goodwin,Danielle Danaldson, Jennifer Mcgill and Dallas Hamilton talk about the proposed sustainability fee Thursday night in the Union Den.