Senate approves sustainability fee

By Jeremy Thompson, Staff Writer

The ASUU Senate passed a joint resolution on Thursday night supporting the Campus Sustainability Initiative and the increase in student fees associated with it.

The body voted 11 to 2 to raise student fees $2.50 per semester for the next three years. At that time an audit will take place to determine if the fee will continue or be suspended.

“This fee shows that students are committed to the future,” said Cory Higgins, director of plant operations and interim director of the Office of Sustainability. “There are plenty of projects to spend this money on.”

The fee was approved after a lengthy debate that included many alternatives to raising student fees. Options that were presented included postponing the bill until next month to get more input directly from students, possibly make the fee optional and trying to get the fee increase onto the ballot for student elections.

The group finally settled on a compromise some said reflected the opinions of most students.
“If students had any real reservations about their student fees being raised, they would have been here,” said Cameron Beech, a proxy Senate member for the College of Pharmacy sitting in for Adam

Wolfe. “I think that since they are not here, we can assume that it is OK to increase fees in this instance. We can see from the crowd here that most people are in favor of this going forward.”

The crowd that attended the event featured students that were mostly in support of the initiative. Of the 216 students present, only four said they opposed the measure.

But Ali Amundsen, senator from the College of Health, said that she had received feedback the other way.
“Most of the students I talked to had great reservations about a student fee increase,” Amundsen said. “They are the ones that will have to bear the burden of this increase for the next three years. They should be allowed to have more of a say in what happens.”

Dallas Hamilton, co-director for the Sustainability Board for ASUU explained that the compromise would allow the initiative to have a chance to succeed, while still making it accountable to students.

“This bill provides the foundation to make sustainability a reality,” Hamilton said.
The Senate was given a packet of materials at the meeting, which Hamilton said would help the senators make an informed decision.

Included in the packet was a survey done to measure student interest. Hamilton explained that it was done prior to the initiative being proposed, and was only a gauge of student interest.

Of the 691 students that responded, 98% were said to be in support of a sustainability initiative, according to Hamilton.

He explained that the survey was conducted on a single night at Black Pumpkin Affair, an ASUU sponsored event attended by almost 2000 students.

Also present were multiple letters of recommendation from faculty and administration supporting the bill. Hamilton said that there was no opposing letters were included in the packet.

A petition was also present that showed more than 2000 signatures from students supporting sustainability.
“That petition was flawed though,” Amundsen said. “The participants were only asked if they would support sustainability, not support a fee increase. A better survey would make that distinction clear.”

The proposal will now go to a joint committee made up of representatives from the
Senate and the Assembly because the bill was different than the one passed by the Assembly on Tuesday. If the differences are reconciled, it will then be forwarded to the Board of Trustees, which will have the final say on the fee increase.

“We have found some middle ground that I think is a great compromise,” said Garry Hrechkosy, senator from the College of Business. “We are a growing campus, and we have to show that we are willing to grow with it. This is the best compromise for everyone.”

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Correction: In the original version of this article, Dallas Hamilton, co-director of the ASUU Sustainability Board, was misquoted as stating that a packet presented to Associated Students of the University of Utah Senators included a survey that didn’t mention a realted fee increase. The survey did contain a question about how much students would be willing to pay per semester in support of a movement that would convert the campus to a sustainable energy source. The final vote on the initiative was 11 to 2 in favor of the fee increase, rater than 11 to 3 as stated in the cutline of the accompanying photo.

Tyler Cobb

Cameron Beech asks questions of Dallas Hamilton, co-director of the ASUU Sustainability Board, about the proposed sustainability student fee.

Tyler Cobb

ASUU Senators cast their votes for a new sustainability fee. The resolution passed the senate, after almost two hours of questions, amendments and debate, by a vote of 11-2.