On the SG ballot this week will be a seemingly innocuous referendum question that purportedly asks students to support the so-called “Clean Energy Revolving Fund.” Unfortunately, that is not what the referendum advocates.
The referendum would advocate for AU to increase the student activity fee (paid by every single undergraduate student) by nearly 15 percent.
The funds raised by the fee increase would not go toward improving the university by purchasing better desks and facilities in academic buildings, or even by putting on better programming initiatives through the Student Government. Instead, the students’ money would, for the first time, go to a private initiative — by force.
If there is so much support for the Clean Energy Revolving Fund, why can’t the proponents of it raise a significant amount of money for it from the very means by which they said they would: voluntary donations and grants? Why, again, if this is such a great project, will they ask — no, will they demand — that every single student at AU turn over his or her money to the project?
Despite the claims that students are either voting “for” or “against” CERF, that simply isn’t the case. They aren’t. CERF exists, and students, faculty and friends are free to donate as much as they can afford — or want — to. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, students came together and raised thousands of dollars to donate to relief efforts. That happened through private donations. Students are receptive to worthy causes and can make an informed decision as to who — or what — should receive their money. Maybe someone wants to donate $100 to CERF. Maybe someone else can only afford $5. And, maybe, just maybe, someone doesn’t want to donate at all. I say let the students choose.
I hope CERF has much success; I really do. But, this referendum just shows what I knew from the moment that the idea of the revolving fund was broached — that those behind its inception intended to fund the initiative on the backs of students with additional fees and surcharges rather than putting in the time and effort to get people to donate voluntarily. It begs this question: do they not have faith that people will buy the bill of goods that CERF is offering?
CERF should have the ability, like countless other private organizations, to raise money from students. What it should not have the ability to do, however, is to pick every student’s pocket by making “contribution” mandatory.
If CERF is allowed to take money from every student on campus, what would be the next group or program to come out and demand your money? Support CERF, don’t support CERF; it is entirely up to you — but stand firm in opposing this outrageous money grab by a private project.
When you log in to vote from your my.american.edu portal on Tuesday and Wednesday, remember: a gift, if required, is not a gift; and a donation, when compulsory, is not a donation. It’s a tax.