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ASUA Notebook 09/20/23: Senate opposes proposed increase in sustainability fee

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Jasmine Ma
Want an inside look at the University of Arizona’s student government? Read the Daily Wildcat’s Associated Students of the University of Arizona notebooks, which recap the ASUA Senate’s weekly meetings.

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona released a statement on Friday opposing the proposed increase in the student sustainability fee. The issue was first raised at the ASUA senate meeting on Sept. 20 when student leaders received information about the proposal. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, the director of the UA Office of Sustainability, Trevor Ledbetter, presented to the senate about the potential fee increase.  

The UA has set the goal of being climate neutral by 2040 and the Office of Sustainability is leading the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan to get the university to that goal. Ledbetter stated that the plan will cost over $1 billion dollars in total. While significant amounts of this money will come from federal funding, an increase in the existing sustainability fee was proposed to fund more programs. 

“One of the most timely and realistic ways forward to implement some of the programs that are going to be needed on the behavior-change side of things could be funded through an increase to our existing sustainability fee,” Ledbetter said. 

Currently, the sustainability fee is $10 per semester. It was established in 2021, and all of this funding currently goes towards the Campus Sustainability Fund, which offers grants for sustainable projects on campus. 

Ledbetter stated that the Campus Sustainability Fund, while important, largely funds short-term projects with short-term results. The increase in the sustainability fee would fund initiatives like student engagement and experiential learning programs, active transportation programs, zero waste programs and more to improve campus sustainability in the long run.

This proposal would increase the fee to $35 per semester. This change would be fully implemented over the next four years, due to the university’s guaranteed fixed tuition. Because of an upcoming change by the Arizona Board of Regents regarding how fees work at the university, Ledbetter stated that this is the last opportunity for a fee increase like this. 

Following the presentation, senators asked questions about the potential financial impacts on students, the specifics of implementing this plan, ASUA’s role in supporting the proposal and more. The senate then moved into an executive session for a further, private discussion. 

On Friday, ASUA released a statement via Instagram stating their opposition to the fee increase. The statement said that a special vote was held on Thursday and the required two-thirds majority for approval was not reached. 

We demand that the University and the State of Arizona Legislature take more action to financially support sustainability initiatives; however, we cannot continue to rely on students to foot the bill towards a better, more sustainable future,” the statement said.

The statement indicated that the senate is in favor of more sustainable initiatives but wants the financial burden to be carried by the university rather than its students, out of concern over rising costs. 

“Students are already facing significant financial challenges, including rising tuition costs, housing expenses, and mandatory meal plans,” the statement read. “Adding this fee, at this time, especially without defined intentions and initiatives, increases the risk of financial instability, difficulty in meeting an individual’s basic needs, and further deepening inequity on our campus.”

ASUA Executive Vice President Eddie Barron voiced support for the senate’s decision. 

“I strongly support the ASUA Senate’s vote to not support this fee increase,” Barron said in an emailed statement. “Although I strongly support the Office of Sustainability and their work to fight for a more sustainable campus, this university cannot continue to gouge the pockets of students — especially at a time where it is difficult for students to fulfill their basic needs.”

 


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