The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Meeting #4 Wrap-Up

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 17 September 2008

I. First Non-Unanimous Vote!

Ladies and gentlemen, the first semi-vaguely-controversial issue of the year. The issue is essentially one of bookkeeping and appropriations. Camp Wildcat, led by their current chair Casey Edwards, argued that they had, essentially, been stiffed with this year’s appropriations. Their argument? The Appropriations Board said that the club had received $2,081 last year; Edwards, however, argued that this was in fact the funds allocated for the fall only, and demanded that Camp Wildcat receive a second shot at the appropriations process.

The chair of the appropriations board, Sen. Emily Fritze, and executive VP Jessica Anderson stood strong. Anderson was most vehement in disagreeing with Camp Wildcat, citing records from their past business manager, as well as chiding Camp Wildcat on ASUA payments that were ultimately not processed– “So be careful!” she said. Fritze, meanwhile, stated that she stood by the amount that her the board had allocated, but that she would be willing to hear their requests again.

The rest of Senate mostly rattled off a bunch of drivel about ‘fairness’ and ‘the voice of the students’, urging for a second chance. The exception was Sen. Steven Wallace, who was willing to send it back but chided Camp Wildcat on not bringing up their arguments at the actual appropriations board meeting. Still, this ultimately led the first (and, given the state of things now, perhaps the only) split vote of the year, 8-1, with Fritze voting against. Furthermore, given the icy tone those in charge took, I’d be surprised if Camp Wildcat received any more than a bit raise in funding.

II. Common Sense — Composted!

It would seem that having an “exemplary” rating for sustainability from the National Wildlife Federation (which also singled out the UA with five other universities as having the largest number of sustainability based programs) is simply not enough: we will not rest until every dorm is converted into a saguaro-house, and the Union is replaced with a natural watering hole!

Jesting (I hope) aside, the ASUA sustainability director Lesley Ash presented on efforts to further expand sustainability efforts. The latest? In-vessel composting. Essentially, this is like the compost that might have been in your backyard, except that it takes place within a massive machine, thus taking up less land area and smelling far better.

Of course, this comes with a cost — a huge cost. On this point, Ash was open, saying that the start up cost would be “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Somehow, I have a feeling that this isn’t exactly a realistic proposal, given other happenings around campus.

But wait, there’s savings! According to Ash, we will save in the long-term of the cost of getting rid of waste. Currently, she said, we spend $30 a ton to dispose of waste; with the composter, however, we won’t have to pay to dispose at the composter.

Syntactically, this is true: we won’t have to pay a dumping fee to deposit waste at our own dumpster. But the use of this composter has costs, and, according to this EPA report [PDF], very high costs:

Annual operation and maintenance costs as low as $61 and as high as  $534 per dry ton of biosolids composted were cited  in a 1989 survey (Alpert et. al., 1989.)  A more recent assessment estimated costs for composting between $100 and $280 per dry ton of biosolids processed. In-vessel systems generally represent the high end of such cost ranges (O’Dette, 1996).

Ash said that start-up costs would be covered “entirely” with grants from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the EPA. However, not only is this scenario highly unlikely (the university’s budgetary issues are a symptom of the state’s), but even after start-up costs are accounted for, there is still the specter of maintenance costs. In-vessel aside, this compost boondoggle still reeks.

As if this weren’t enough, Ash left a grenade of a proposal at the end of her presentation. The obsession with opinion polls still runs much of ASUA, and so Ash proposed polling students on sustainability efforts, but with a twist: Students would be required to fill out these polls to access required class materials and quizzes on D2L.

Suffice to say, this violates all sorts of academic policy and basic sensibilities about student rights. I’m hoping that this policy dies miserably in whatever desert it was born, but it is a development worth monitoring.

III. NoteHall — Subsidized?

An interesting business proposal from three Eller graduates. NoteHall is a class resource that aims to create a “class community”, where students can buy and sell class notes (for pennies: 15 cents every time your notes get downloaded, and varying amounts for each set of notes/study guides you download), discuss class activities, and form study groups.

All in all, it has potential. I have a few issues with some of their hypotheses (“We don’t go to college to hear the professor lecture. . . [college] is more than pure academics,” for one), but my main issue comes with ASUA’s role in the start-up company (they plan on expanding to fifteen more campuses this coming spring). I’ll say again, this is a start-up firm, seeking to expand their market share. I wish them the best of luck. But is it responsible for ASUA — your student dollars — to be engaged in what is essentially small-scale corporate welfare?

As of now, the current resolution was simply one of support. Yet it is troubling to see the ASUA logo emblazoned on the left-hand bar, even as the disclaimer on the bottom declares that, “Notehall is not affiliated with the university.”

IV.  SHAC — Core is Not Enough!

Lastly (trust me, it was a long meeting), the Student Nutrition Coalition (SNC). Since this cute little acronym is quickly becoming a reality, Sen. Gabby Ziccarelli (who came up with the committee idea) and Joseph Morano (SHAC director) went through some of the coalition’s initiatives. It was filled with the usual suspects, but with one odd-ball proposal: the Jump Start Breakfast Card, which is aimed to encourage those who don’t currently eat breakfast with discount cards. Yes, the SNC is encouraging eating when it normally doesn’t occur.

I can understand some sort of argument, but I was struck by how such a policy was enacted. “I love breakfast,” the speaker started, and unwittingly betrayed the whole philosophy underlying the “healthy eating” activism. These committees are not formed by burger-lovers, fast-food-junkies, or even people who don’t count calories — they are formed by those who already love eating healthy, green, vegan, whatever. But they are unsatisfied with the options available to them; thus, via ASUA, they find a way to mandate their preferences upon the whole.

I also found this closing quote precious: “The first wealth is health.” Except when it isn’t. In fact, looking through history, there are proportionally few successes who are genuinely healthy.


4 Responses

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  1. […] reiterated that they are not, in any way, shape, or form, seeking funding from ASUA, as I feared in this post. “We are not asking for ASUA to subsidize us in any way and at no place in our […]

  2. […] getting enough sustainability in your life? Well, you’re just in luck — the Dean of the […]

  3. […] final vote was a tie, 5-5 (man, we’ve come a long way).  Sens. Fritze, Macchiaroli, Patrick, Wallace, and Ziccarelli voted against the plan, while […]

  4. […] Notehall, again. On September 17 last year, I wrote the following regarding the Notehall startup: All in all, it has potential. I have a few issues with […]

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