ASUU approves sustainability fee increase

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

An amended proposal to increase student fees by $2.50 per semester to fund sustainability projects passed the ASUU General Assembly and Senate last night and will go before the Utah Board of Regents for approval this afternoon.

If the Regents approve the fee, an Associated Students of the University of Utah committee would oversee the use of its funds, which students and campus organizations could request to start sustainability projects on campus.

Dallas Hamilton, co-director of the ASUU Sustainability Board, articulated potential plans proposed by U Plant Operations for the funds to the Senate.

The first proposal involves a plan to install meters for detecting carbon and energy use at the Residence Halls to determine how and where energy consumption can be reduced. The second is to install motion detectors in vending machines, so that they can power down when traffic declines. The third is to install LED lights in the Union Building. Current bulbs use between 77 and 88 watts, and the new bulbs would only use seven watts. A company has offered to install the bulbs and provide the labor pro bono, he said.

Questar has also offered to install heating or gas for half-off, said Josh Lee, the bill’s Assembly sponsor.

Hamilton declined to comment about project specifics until a later date.

About 42 students and staff turned out at both meetings, green ribbons provided by the Sustainability Board pinned to their clothes, to show their support for the fee on it’s last night on the Legislative floor.

“We fill the room one more time with students adamant about sustainability,” Hamilton said. The fee is the first of its kind to be kept in students’ control, he said.

The Senate passed the fee 13-1, and the Assembly passed it 22-3, mostly without debate or opposition. One legislator in each branch was concerned that the fee was passed last night within a matter of minutes and with a lack of discussion in the process.

“I hope you’ve read the by-laws and the bill in its entirety,” said Parker Ence, representative from the School of Business, to his fellow representatives. Kasi Goodwin, senator from the College of Science, asked the senators to raise their hand if they’d read the entire bill and the by-laws. A handful raised their hands. Eight raised their hands to say that they had attended the information sessions regarding the fee.

“There was little research into the language of the bill,” Goodwin said. She complained that student government would overwhelmingly support an initiative that wants to spend student funds without an exact plan.

But the fee’s proponents and organizers are confident that what they’ve gathered is enough.

In three years, the fee will be reevaluated. If the projects haven’t shown themselves to be effective or sustainable, the board will question whether the fee should continue. If not, the remaining funds will be given back to the General Reserve.

With all of the money garnered from the fee, 70 percent would be put into a revolving loan fund and the remaining 30 percent would be allocated for sustainable projects.

Proponents of the bill said that the green ribbons worn by people in the room also represented the overwhelming support from students. But a handful of legislators weren’t convinced.

“I got 50 signatures in a morning,” Ence said, referring to a petition started against the fee. ASUU polled less than 10 percent of the student body, and such a small number cannot be representative of the students’ wishes, Goodwin said.

“I think they’re all just sick of talking about it,” she said.

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Mike Mangum

After the sustainability fee passed the senate the crowed that had gathered exited the room as the Senate moved on with the agenda.

Mike Mangum

Dallas Hamilton argues the pros of the sustainability fee to the ASUU Senate. A crowd of people filled parlor room B in the Union to watch the Senate vote on the bill.