ASUU candidates differ over sustainability fee

By Jeremy Thompson, Staff Writer

Parties running in the ASUU elections have different ideas about whether to support the proposed Campus Sustainability Initiative.

The initiative, which is pending a vote from the Associated Students of the University of Utah General Assembly, advocates a student fee increase of $5 to pay for projects that would help the campus become more environmentally friendly. The initiative would also fund future projects that would help the campus become more sustainable.

Pace Johnson, presidential candidate for the GO Party, said his party supports the initiative if the way it is funded is modified.

“We agree with what the initiative is trying to accomplish, but we don’t want to raise student fees to fund the project,” Johnson said. “We would like to see the money already paid in student fees redistributed to provide funding for the proposal.”

Johnson explained that if elected, the GO Party would perform an audit on fee expenditures across campus and work to identify specific places that fees are not being used as effectively as they could.

Departments that could spare some of their fee revenue would be asked to reallocate their funds to other departments in need. That money would be used to fund student programs, such as the sustainability initiative.

Johnson said this approach to fee management would minimize the increases in the amount of money students pay and more effectively utilize the money in the system.

Clint Hugie, presidential candidate for the Synergy Party, said that his party is against any proposal that would raise student fees. He said although he likes the idea behind the initiative, raising student fees can be scary territory.

“Raising fees can lead to a slippery slope,” Hugie said. “Maybe next year, they propose another $5 increase. Before you know it, you are paying hundreds of dollars. It is better to not start down that slope.”

Hugie said that the Synergy Party supports the basic idea behind the initiative, but the organizers must show a better ability to turn a profit before they should be allowed to use student funds.

If individual projects can be shown to make money for the U, then they should be utilized, Hugie said. If they cannot be shown to guarantee a return on the initial investment, the project should not go forward, especially at this difficult economic time.

Tayler Clough, presidential candidate for the Revolution Party, said his group also supports the basic idea of the proposal. He said that they would support the increase in students fees, provided some conditions are met. He said more information and feedback is needed before any action is taken.

“We are supportive of the idea, with the understanding that more research must be done,” he said. “Students need to have more feedback on the project before it should be approved.”

While Clough was director of the ASUU student outreach and assessment board during Fall Semester, the board was involved in posting surveys on the student government Web site gauging general student interest for the initiative. ASUU Sustainability Board director Dallas Hamilton, drafted questions for the survey and distributed it to students.

Rachel Rizzo, the Revolution Party’s vice presidential candidate, said that with more accountability and transparency, the group would support the increase in fees.

She said whoever was charged with the distribution of the fees would need to account for every penny spent, allowing students to see exactly where their money was going and what services they were getting from the fee increase. Only under that condition would the group support an increase in student fees.

In general, increases in student fees should be met with a skeptical eye, Clough said. However, the potential benefits that the campus will see in this case is worth the slight increase, he said.

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Pace Johnson

Taylor Clough

Clint Hugie