Opinion: A student activity fee increase brings no guarantee of benefiting clubs
University charges students for everything they can, so an $11.50 increase is real for students
Over the past two days, students had the opportunity to vote not just for their Student Government representation, but for a student activity fee increase. This would be the first increase in nearly five years. As reported by The Eagle, the proposed fee increase will be from $88.50 per semester to an even $100 per semester.
This comes after last semester’s debate to vote on increasing the fee. Finally, students can voice their opinion on an $11.50 change. Student Government and the AU Club Council have both said they are in favor of the increase, as AUCC has complained particularly about not having enough to money to meet all funding requests. Referred to by Student Government as Amplify the Student Experience, the argument is that a fee increase means AUSG can better serve the University student body, while increasing funding for other student organizations.
Currently from the total revenue that student activity fees collects, 50 percent of that is allocated to SG, with another 30 percent for AUCC and the last 20 percent divided among Student Media Board. Obviously, an overall increase in the activity fee would create an increase in funding for all three bodies of student campus life. However, SG will be the main organization benefitting from a student activity fee increase. This benefit will come in the context of SG’s issues staying within budget, specifically in the 2016-2017 school year when it received the equivalent of 56 percent of the pool.
In an Eagle article from 2016, it was reported that most of the Student Government budget allocation goes to programming through the Kennedy Political Union and the Student Union Board. The rest goes to events like Founder’s Ball and Women’s Initiative activities. For many students, the concern may be that this will allow AUSG members to pay themselves more. This is not the case as the stipends, or student support payments, are fixed. For students concerned that AUSG already receives too much funding for events, the fee increase is troubling.
Clubs need more funding. Especially with AUCC changing whether clubs can charge for events, some clubs on campus are going to see real issues with their quality of events. But an increase in the student fee is not necessarily the answer to this problem. The money probably already exists for better funding; it just needs reallocating. There are also other issues that make it more difficult for clubs to succeed. Namely, policies like charging $300 for two hours of space are an obstacle. There are ways to help clubs facilitate great events that doesn’t require increased money out of every student’s pocket.
Particularly, clubs should be allowed to charge for events. It may be charging students twice, but, as long as the student is aware of this, any other money the student gives is at their own discretion. AUCC does not have to micromanage student club experiences. Students can make educated decisions for themselves, if it is worth it to them to support the organization with their money a second time. Clubs know what they need, and the fee increase is not necessarily addressing those needs.
Student bureaucracy is not often the best answer to University problems. This referendum is, in some ways, meaningless as any increase is decided by the Board of Trustees. It is still worthwhile to vote, however. Then, at least the Board will know whether it is going directly against student wishes or not. Accountability is a real issue for students on campus, from Student Government to the Board of Trustees. Currently, the student fee lacks transparency and accountability. The University charges students for everything they can, so an $11.50 increase is real for many on this campus. That $11.50 can buy groceries or a bus ticket home.
Whether students vote for the increase will be decided soon enough. AUSG maybe does need more funding; more money that makes the undergraduate experience better is not necessarily a bad thing. However, Student Government should demonstrate that they can stay within their budget before asking for more money.
Trevor Pugh, the SG Senate speaker, was quoted by The Eagle as saying that the fee increase “is basically the cost of a Cava bowl each semester.” Personally, I would love the $11.50 for that Cava bowl.
Samantha McAllister is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist at The Eagle.