Student Activities fee to be redistributed
Students have been discussing possible changes in the Student Activities Fund (SAF) for quite some time now. Many have debated whether the fee should be raised or the distribution amounts changed between its three recipients: Student Government, AU Club Council and Student Media. As it stands, the fee is $73 per student per semester, of which Student Government receives 72 percent while Club Council and Student Media receive only 14 percent each.
Because the current system has remained largely unchanged since 2004, a change in Student Activity fee policy has become more and more urgent; a fact which most students recognize, according to a poll conducted last fall by Student Government.
Last week, the Student Activities Leadership Commission (SALC) voted unanimously in favor of taking up to 15 percent of the SAF to pay student groups’ executive board salaries and for the introduction of a pay grade. This first step is a critical one to ensure that involvement on campus does not trade off with work for working class students. Working class students will face less pressure to choose between work and campus involvement. In the past, 15 percent of the SAF was taken by Student Government, Club Council and Student Media’s individual allocations to pay their respective salaried student positions, according to AU’s website. This left many student positions, particularly in Media and Club Council, underpaid given their smaller initial allocation from the Student Activity fee. There was no pay grade, which led many student organizations’ executives with paltry pay despite the many hours these positions required.
This is just one area where the backwardness of the present system is laid to bare. Since the present system’s inception a decade ago, the number of clubs has grown substantially, equipment has grown old and needs updating among media groups, and the demands of students have changed. The changes on campus alone should have driven changes before now, but, more importantly, the larger economic landscape of the United States has changed following the Great Recession.
In order to ensure the viability of campus life at AU, campus life must adapt to the changes within it and the changing world around it. Most students agree, and the SALC’s mission is to navigate these changes to guard the vibrancy of AU’s campus life.
In that light, SALC has begun taking on the contentious task of redistributing the Student Activity fee in its weekly Tuesday meetings, something which last semester’s poll shows the majority of campus supports. As it stands, all three groups—Student Government, Club Council and Student Media—have fielded proposals for redistribution of the fee.
All three proposals support more funding for Student Media and Club Council, although the extent of the changes is still under debate. Student Government fielded the most modest changes—19.79 percent each for Student Media and Club Council and 69.42 percent for Student Government—while Media Board proposed the most far-reaching changes—25 percent for Club Council and Student Media and 50 percent for Student Government. Club Council’s proposal was for a 22 percent-22 percent-56 percent split, also with Student Government receiving the majority of the fee.
The reason underlying the differences in the proposals are different interests in redistributing the fee. Media groups and Club Council both show chronic budget shortages due to an explosion in the number of student groups (all clubs fall under Club Council and Student Media) and the high operating costs of media groups, particularly print costs for The Eagle and renovation costs for ATV.
Student Government events, on the other hand, have historically attracted the largest turnout among campus events. These events include Founders’ Day, Student Union Board concerts and Kennedy Political Union speakers. Because of the high costs and student turnout associated with these types of events, all proposed revisions to the allocation of the Student Activity fee have made Student Government’s share the largest.
The process of reallocation, however, cannot be considered complete, let alone democratic, without student input. The poll last semester was a major step forward in terms of SALC’s ability to make informed decisions regarding reallocation, but it was only a snapshot of student opinion. Continued student input is essential.
SALC is accountable to AU’s student body. Consequently, continued student input is not enough. Our decisions cannot truly represent the student body unless our decisions are informed and built on strong student participation in SALC deliberations.
To that end, SALC requests continued involvement as we determine the best outcome in SAF redistribution for students.
_Mike Wang is SALC Chair and a junior in School of Public Affairs