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Potential activity fee increase faces scrutiny

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, October 6, 2005

A plan to increase student activities fees elicited both support and warnings at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting.

The Academic Affairs committee’s proposal to increase fees to $95 for the 2006-07 academic year, a $15 jump from the current $80 fee, has a twofold purpose of combating inflation effects and implementing last year’s popular College Readership Program.

Academic Affairs committee chair Chris Harris said the student activities fee has not kept pace with inflation or tuition hikes in recent years, forcing Student Union clubs and organizations to deal with increasing costs and make sacrifices.

“Clubs have lost approximately eight dollars over the past four years in buying power due to inflation,” Harris said. “We’re not advocating keeping a student activities fee at the same rate as tuition, but tuition has increased so much we think it’s time for the Student Activities Fee to increase, as well.”

Under the proposal, $10 of the increase would be allocated to funding the College Readership Program. During last year’s four-week pilot program, students showed demand for the free papers, which included the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today.

Although only $5 of the increase would go to Student Union clubs and organizations, Harris justified the allotment.

“The fact that we have such a high increase [in revenues from The Shirt] justifies the mere $5 for Clubs and Organizations,” said Harris, who noted that the Financial Management Board would be in charge of allocating this $5. “Everyone does come out a winner here.”

Student body president Dave Baron explained the second phase of the proposed plan, which would involve modifying the fixed allocation percentages specified in the Student Union constitution to redistribute fee revenues and allow for the College Readership Program.

A few senators questioned Harris, urging caution and further analysis of the budget.

O’Neill senator Steve Tortorello summarized the discussion at Monday’s Council of Representatives meeting, saying there was “concern about the actual way this would impact student programming on campus.”

“Is there money available now somewhere else we don’t know about that can pay for this?” Tortorello asked. “We really need to analyze our budget, dissect our budget … and audit ourselves.”

He mentioned the possibility of tapping into the Student Union’s carry-forward account, which student body president Lizzi Shappell said was at $180,000.

Harris disagreed with Tortorello and said a long-term change, like the proposed student activities fee increase, was necessary.

“The important thing here is that [carry-forward account] wouldn’t be able to sustain a program for more than two years,” Harris said. “And the second issue [is], is there actually money available within the Student Union? An audit would take forever … and I would be very wary [of the reported results], unless we hired a really good auditor.”

Baron said it would not be possible to find enough money for the College Readership Program within the Student Union – “$20,000, maybe.”

But he also said senators should not be concerned the College Readership Program would be “hardwired” into the Student Union budget.

“We should lead for today,” Baron said. “We can’t lead too much into the future.”

If the College Readership Program becomes a burden, Baron said, Senate can reevaluate its existence in the future. He likened the College Readership Program to the figurative albatross, presumably hanging around Senate’s neck.

Keough senator Rob Lindley agreed with Baron about focusing on the present. He said he supported both the fee increase and the College Readership Program.

“It would be beneficial on all parts for the change to be made,” Lindley said.

If senators pass the proposal in upcoming meetings, the resolution will then go to Campus Life Council, which would then make a recommendation to Vice President of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman, Baron said. The University budgeting group would have the final say.