In December, UCSB students will be picking up the tab for 12 people to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Associated Students Finance Board — which dispenses unallocated student fees — is funding nearly two-thirds of the travel expenses required to send 12 students selected by A.S. Environmental Affairs Board to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from Dec. 11-18. Although the conference will be a significant event in global environmental affairs — it will be the first time since the creation of the Kyoto Protocol that world leaders will meet to discuss climate change — many are questioning devoting $9,800 to 12 students.
EAB members are promising to host a post-conference presentation to discuss their observations, but with the meeting ending in the midst of winter break, any talk will be held weeks after the event. Additionally, EAB has been discussing the possibility of planting trees through Goleta Valley Beautiful to offset the carbon footprint the overseas trip would create.
Two weeks ago, A.S. Finance Board voted to partially fund EAB’s original request of $13,240, dispensing $4,365 towards the group’s trip. However, EAB members returned to Finance Board the next Monday to ask for the additional funding that had been previously denied, which totaled $5,435.
When Finance Board members decided to uphold their original decision by a close vote, EAB Co-Chair Violetta Muselli petitioned members at last Wednesday’s A.S. Legislative Council meeting to fulfill the funding request. Members eventually decided to overturn Finance Board’s decision and fund EAB.
“From our perspective — and apparently that of Legislative Council as well — it will be four more opportunities for students to go and disseminate that information when they get back,” Muselli said.
Rep-at-large Josue Aparicio, a member of Finance Board, said the Board felt that it had already funded as many students as it could afford.
“We have a very limited budget this year and we felt that [four] more people wouldn’t make that big of a difference,” Aparicio said. “We would love to give them the full amount, but we have to make sure that we split it up evenly.”
EAB Treasurer and former Co-Chair Quentin Gee said it was critical for UCSB students to be involved in environmental politics. Gee said the group has twice travelled to Washington, D.C. to support environmental reforms and on one occasion even convinced a representative to commit to environmental consciousness.
“We feel it’s important to the group to be a part of this global process and hopefully get the U.S. to commit to changes,” Gee said.
Off-Campus Rep and Finance Board member Alex Onodera remains cautious of A.S.’s large allocation, as it sets a precedent for funding that the Board cannot offer every group.
“Finance Board’s point is that there are other sources of funding,” Onodera said. “Legislative Council has funding for special projects if someone wanted to take up environmental issues. They could have easily gone another route.”
Despite funding tiffs, Muselli stressed the importance of sending 12 students to Denmark. She said that EAB will cover every event during the conference and all information gathered will be delivered at a post-conference presentation. Students interested in attending the conference will be asked to specify how they will share their findings upon return.
“We want to make sure that the money — and we know that it’s a lot — doesn’t go in vain [so] that the entire student body can benefit from it,” Muselli said.