Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, October 21, 2018

Student Activity fee: who gets what?

AU has the opportunity to ensure that all students’ money is being used for the benefit of those who actually paid it.

American University officials and student leaders have begun an arguably overdue examination of the distribution of the Student Activity fee.

As the system stands, each full-time undergraduate student pays $73.50 every semester to Student Activities.

These fees are then pooled together and dispersed to fund umbrella student groups. Student Government receives 72 percent of this fund, while the Student Media Board and AU Club Council each receive 14 percent.

AU has experienced numerous changes in demographics and size since the current percentages were established in 2001. Just to further date the program, 2001 was before the Student Government was actually called the Student Government. Clearly, certain changes must be accounted for.

As AU moves forward with a new plan, The Eagle encourages the administration to continue this scrutiny in earnest.

Those especially knowledgeable about Student Activity funding — Student Activity wonks, one might say — will know that The Eagle also does not receive any of this money. And we would like it to stay that way. While extra funds are always helpful, the independence of our paper is our highest priority. Being funded by those we report on is a conflict of interest we frankly could not ignore. So, in the words of our favorite Alaskan governor: thanks, but no thanks.

However, University officials should truly investigate the merits and disadvantages of the current distribution of Student Activities funding.

While we recognize that SG is entirely dependent on this fee for its budget, the disparity between its percentage and that of the Student Media Board and the AU Club Council certainly raises some eyebrows. Officials should guide their recommendations for redistribution by asking themselves what allocation system best serves the benefits of all students.

AUCC is a particular beneficiary that seems especially thirsty for new funds, and rightfully so. More funding for students clubs offers these clubs the opportunity not only to attract more students, but also to get out there and make a name for AU.

The AU Debate Society is but one example. Ranked seventh in the nation at the close of last year, the society’s achievements reflect well on the University as a whole.

Club funding is vital to the Debate Society’s success, allowing members to attend and win tournaments across the mid-Atlantic.

Yet while the group receives the most money from AUCC of any student organization, the Debate Society still faces difficulty sending team members to competitions outside the immediate region. If a well-funded club such as this continues to be limited by its budget, one can only imagine the fiscal scenarios facing other clubs.

But before we get carried away in advocating for broad and sweeping changes, there are things we like about the fund’s current distribution.

For example, greek life is not among the groups that are currently funded, and we believe offering them Student Activities money would be a misguided move.

Fraternities and sororities may insist that their programming events benefit the entire University, as they argued for last year’s Greek Week.

Yet despite this outreach, we have seen little desire from the larger AU community to actually participate in greek events. With this in mind, it seems hard to justify appropriating a universal fee to such a limited interest.

Moreover, well-established national organizations and larger alumni networks support the AU chapters of fraternities and sororities. This certainly expands their fundraising ability beyond that of the average student group. And with limited Student Activities funds, the money should go to those who truly need it.

Ultimately, with this re-examination of the Student Activity fee, AU has the opportunity to ensure that all students’ money is being used for the benefit of those who actually paid it. We encourage our officials to press on and guarantee that students are getting the most bang for their buck.


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