Initiative’s purpose unclear and lacks student support

By Kasi Goodwin, Ali Amundsen

We are in favor of the U becoming a more sustainable campus. We support appropriate measures that will help limit our impact on the environment. However, the proposed Sustainable Campus Initiative, which includes an increase in student fees, is not the best way for us to accomplish this goal. Although the initiative has good intentions, it is ill-advised and inappropriate.

The first issue is clarity. The language of the SCI fails to clarify the exact usage of collected funds. The ambiguity of the use of funds as articulated in this bill is the equivalent of writing a blank check, funded by mandatory student fees, for any number of unknown projects. This opens up a dangerous precedent.

Another issue is timing. We are already facing a 9 percent tuition increase next year. In a time of economic recession, it isn’t appropriate to increase fees beyond those already established for existing programs and resources, particularly without explicit direction for the use of those funds.

The U already has both an Office of Sustainability and an Associated Students of the University of Utah Board of Sustainability. With these organizations already devoted to sustainability, there is no need to create an additional group to run the SCI. Both organizations have budgets that could be partially diverted to projects fitting the SCI’s vision.

There is $319,000 in the ASUU general reserve. We don’t see justification for raising fees when there is already so much money not being utilized. If the Sustainability Board needs more money to fund this project and the ASUU administration is so supportive of it, then they should first look at reallocating the money it already has.

The SCI references several schools that have instituted effective programs similar to the proposed initiative. However, the programs in the majority of those schools were passed by referendum to ensure wide support by the students.

The ASUU administration said a referendum would be against the ASUU Constitution. Yet Redbook not only allows for a general referendum, but clearly recommends “a general referendum of the student body on changes in the student activity fees” (Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 1).

Proponents of the SCI tout small-scale surveys and petitions as evidence of broad student support for the principles behind the initiative. If those in favor of the bill are so confident of student support, we question why they’re so reluctant to allow the students to decide their own fee increases.

We see the advantages of bringing more student involvement to sustainability on campus. However, it would be irresponsible to ask students to commit their personal financial resources to an initiative that does not have any defined projects and didn’t accurately gauge student support.

We support efforts toward sustainability, but we feel that students deserve the opportunity to decide whether or not they want their fees increased and to know exactly where that money will go.

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Editor’s Note8212;Ali Amundsen represents the College of Health in the ASUU Senate. Kasi Goodwin represents the College of Science.

Kasi Goodwin

Ali Amundsen