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Baron leads debate on activities fee increase

Karen Langley | Tuesday, October 4, 2005

The Council of Representatives discussed a proposed $15 student activities fee increase – designed to fund both the implementation of the College Readership Program and additional student programming – at its meeting Monday.

Chris Harris, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, justified the proposed increase to the group. He cited both the decreasing real value of student activities fees, which have remained constant since the 2002-03 school year, and the popularity of the College Readership Program among students surveyed last spring.

A project run by USA Today, the College Readership Program provides college students with daily newspapers that are paid for upfront via student fees.

“When you chart historical raises in student activity fees along with annual tuition increases and inflation rates, we see that today the real activity fee should be $88,” Harris said. “We’re losing buying power for student activities.”

Student activity fees – collected on students’ University bill each semester – are approved by the Financial Management Board. Students have initiated increases in the past, student body president Dave Baron said.

“One criticism that could arise is our recommendation of $5 of additional funding towards student groups, but a strong outlook for The Shirt next year will also contribute to funding,” Harris said.

Half of The Shirt profits up to $200,000 are made available for the Financial Management Board, as well as 40 percent of profits earned in excess of $200,000.

Baron said if the activities fee increases, almost $50,000 in additional funds would be allocated for clubs and organizations.

The proposed implementation of the College Readership Program was supported by a four-week study last spring in which students were supplied with free copies of the New York Times, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune, Harris said.

“At the study’s end, 82 percent of students surveyed at distribution locations said they would support a fee increase to support the College Readership Program,” he said.

The proposed student fee increase would provide 1,600 papers a day – a potential problem since the study’s pattern for demand reached an equilibrium at a little more than 2,000 papers. To address this shortfall, papers would be distributed only at the dining halls and at a specified off-campus location, Harris said.

“We are really going to promote recycling of papers,” he said. “We would have bins in the dining halls where you can put your paper [for other students to use.]”

Student Union Board Manager Jimmy Flaherty challenged the proposal to increase fees in light of the inefficiency of budget allocation within student government.

“I think it’s incredibly irresponsible to raise student activities fees when we’re not even using the money we’re given,” he said. “There’s an ever-increasing carry-forward budget each year.”

Judicial Council president James Leito suggested student government conduct studies on where students want fee increases to go.

“I’ve always been a big fan of increasing student activity fees,” he said. “Have you guys done any research about student opinions of increasing fees for other activities? They might also say yes for programming.”

The student fee increase will be proposed to the Student Senate on Wednesday.

In other COR news:

uJennifer Keegan was approved without opposition as the College of Engineering’s Representative on the Academic Council, where she will serve as a non-voting member with speaking privileges. Keegan cited her experiences working with both students and college deans while running the career fair for Engineering Industry Day and events for the Society of Women Engineers as evidence of her qualifications.