Save your change and buy some pop

Why you shouldn’t give any more money to the sustainability initiative

Back in 2007, students at the newly-formed Sustainability Initiative succeeded at passing a referendum that granted $18,000 per year to its operations via a $3.00 fee tacked on to every student’s LUSU membership dues.

The Initiative has been using this money to fund a part-time commissioner that leads the club and attempts to promote sustainability at Lakehead University.

This year, the Initiative will be putting to vote another referendum attempting to increase this fee by an additional $2.50, allowing that commissioner to become full-time.

That money, though, will be wasted because much of what the Sustainability Initiative does can be completed by a part-time commissioner, and what the commissioner cannot do is accomplished by Lakehead University’s Sustainability Committee – something for which you are already paying via your tuition.

Here’s an example of how the Initiative has continued to be ill-thought and ill-led even as recently as last year.

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This push for the survey and their attempts at passing a referendum last year (the election in which the referendum appeared was voided by LUSU) were the only noteworthy acts of the Initiative all year.

This is what your $18,000 paid for.
[/blockquote]

This past winter, the Initiative took a survey on banning the sale of bottled water on the university campus through an online vote. While the survey was a success in the Initiative’s eyes (57.3 percent of students voted in favour of the ban), it was not without some problems.

For one, there is no contingency in place. If Lakehead were to remove bottled water from sale, there would be very few viable alternatives by which students could obtain fresh, clean, cold drinking water on campus. Only one water fountain serves filtered, chilled water in the entire school. The rest of the fountains are old, rusted, and serve water that’s lukewarm and chlorine-infused.

Instead, students would most likely end up buying something else – most likely sugary and bottled – creating a whole other question: whether removing healthy alternatives furthers the epidemic of unhealthy eating.

But the Initiative’s goal was not to stop the sale of bottled water – it was to stop the sale of water altogether. It was their view that water should be free and not sold, and that the sale of water at allegedly exorbitant prices (compared to tap water) was something to be eliminated.

It’s here that the Initiative loses its argument. By removing choices and attempting to control the behaviour of students to match the worldview adopted by the Initiative, it has trampled on the freedom of students to make their own decisions.

Those who agree with the Initiative can choose not to purchase bottled water; those who disagree can continue to enjoy a beverage in a form that has become a staple in western culture.

Whether or not that staple is a good thing should be debated vociferously, but once the debate turns into attempts at controlling others’ actions, it becomes something else entirely.

Ultimately, the Initiative only conducted a survey, not a binding vote by the student body. What LUSU or the Initiative will do with the results is something else entirely.

This push for the survey and their attempts at passing a referendum last year (the election in which the referendum appeared was voided by LUSU) were the only noteworthy acts of the Initiative all year. This is what your $18,000 paid for.

So, save your money. $2.50 may not sound like much – and you’re right, it probably isn’t – but it sends the wrong message. It says that the Initiative can continue to have a lacklustre agenda, ineffective leaders, and can campaign to limit your freedom to choose – all without consequence.

Ian Kaufman is this year’s commissioner. He was an excellent choice and he’s going to do a fantastic job, but his job is not a full-time affair.

The Initiative needs to prove that it can be a strong force inside LUSU and the university. Then they can have more money.

Until then, keep your change. It all adds up.