Sustainability fee passes temporarily; ASUU must reconcile versions of bill

By Jeremy Thompson, Staff Writer

The U Board of Trustees approved a $2.50 student fee increase per semester to fund sustainability projects on the condition that a final version of the initiative passes in the ASUU Senate and Assembly.

“When the university is approached with a new fee proposal, we usually say no,” said Paul Brinkman, vice president for budget and planning. “But if it comes from the students, we make an exception.”

While presenting the proposal to the board, Patrick Reimherr, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, said that the fee increase represents the voice of the students.

“Although we have not received final approval from both houses on the final version of the bill, we feel like we have justification to bring this proposal to you,” Reimherr told the Trustees. “We have petitions and surveys that show students support this initiative.”

“I don’t need student input to propose a fee increase,” Reimherr later told The Daily Utah Chronicle. “I have the power to do it without.”

Some student leaders told the Trustees they had concerns about ASUU’s process of getting student input.

“I think the main concern we have with the program is that many students are feeling like they don’t have a say in their student government,” said Kasi Goodwin, senator from the College of Science. “We support the idea of sustainability, but we don’t think that this is the best way to accomplish it. We have not even approved a final version of the bill.”

Goodwin said that as student government representatives, they have received “a ton” of e-mails about this issue.

“Those students feel like their voice is not being heard by the ASUU administration,” she said.

The Trustees temporarily approved the fee on the condition that the ASUU General Assembly and Senate can reconcile differences in two versions of the bill before the board meets again in April. The difference is over whether to suspend and re-evaluate the fee after three years.

Reimherr presented a packet to the board detailing some of the support ASUU had collected for the initiative. It included multiple letters from faculty and staff, as well as letters from local government entities such as the mayor’s and governor’s offices.

“This is a decision that we have thought about for a long time,” Reimherr said. “This was planned out by a variety of people.”

Ali Amundsen, ASUU senator from the College of Health, said that she wants to see how more students feel about it, not just community leaders.

“We want to give the students more of a say in this,” Amundsen said. “We want to put it on the ballot as a referendum, like the other schools did that are mentioned (in the packet). Let the students have a say in what happens.”

Reimherr responded that a referendum was unconstitutional according to Redbook, the ASUU constitution, and that those in support of one were interpreting Redbook incorrectly.

Goodwin encouraged all students to contact their representatives with feedback, whether it is in support of the proposal or against it.

Dallas Hamilton, associate director of the ASUU Sustainability Board, declined to comment on the proceedings.

“We want to make this program work,” Reimherr said. “Some senators have proposed a one-time funding for this program. That will not work because the funds are not sustainable. The most appropriate way to make it work is to use an increase in student fees. That way we have a consistent source of revenue for a long time to come.”

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Clarification: In this article, Student Body President Patrick Reimherr is quoted as saying, “I don’t need student input to propose a fee increase”…”I have the power to do it without.” The second part of this statement was actually said in a meeting with the reporter a few days earlier.

Tyler Cobb

ASUU president Patrick Reimherr presents the Board of Trustees details of the support ASUU General Assembly and Senate gave for the Sustainability Fee. The Trustees passed the fee pending it passing the Assembly and Senate.