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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

20% Fee Increase Vote Fails- 2/6/03

Last Wednesday the Student Senate voted not to recommend to the Board of Trustees to make a 20% increase of the Student Activities fee, leaving the issue of a $44,000 deficit in the Student Activities Trust Fund still up in the air.

The Student Senate went into executive, or closed, session to discuss and vote on the possible fee increase. Interim Dean Angeline Lopes, Director of Student Life Joyce Morgan, and Senate Network Administrator Skye Rhyddyd were the only ones allowed to stay, while students and members of the press were asked to leave. Executive session is when the Senate does its business behind closed doors, and senators are prohibited from talking of what happens, except for the outcome of a vote.

After 40 minutes, the Senate came out of executive session, with President Joseph Panciotti at first refusing to even state the motion, saying that since it wasn’t approved, there was no point announcing what it was.

“A lot of senators were hearing this for the first time, and it was some complex information and data,” said Senator Jesse Solomon, on the reason the Senate chose to go into executive session. “To further debate the issue in a public forum would have been inappropriate and premature for students to have been involved.”

“Now we’re going to look at other ways to draw more support for student programs and student services,” said Senator Fritz Hyppolite, as well as “improving the state of affairs” at the university. “We’re going to be looking to work with the administration to maintain goodwill towards the students.” A fee increase has not been ruled out, and the Senate is looking at ways to cut costs from next year’s budget.

“[The Senate’s] in a difficult position of having to choose what they’re going to do when just about everything they do is bare bones now and valuable,” said Associate Director of Student Life, Donna Neal. “If you reduce by one the number of students who work at a student center, that could adversely affect how many hours a week the center is open. You cut a fifteen-hour-a-week work study position, and you don’t have anyone to make up those fifteen hours, that’s fifteen hours less during the week that each center is there for students to find out information, make friends, hang out in, and all that stuff.”

The $44,000 shortfall is a result of the university switching from a two-tiered system of paying fees (where fees were paid on a part-time and full-time student basis) to a more “proportional” system, where students are charged an average per credit fee.

This isn’t the first time the Student Senate has had to deal with a deficit in the SATF and an increase in the Student Activities fee.

Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s the SATF had gone into deficit, and Vice Chancellor Jean MacCormack went to the Student Senate to speak on the need for a fee increase to bring the SATF back into balance, notes Associate Director Neal. The Senate voted to increase the fee, which not only balanced the budget, but created a surplus, as well.

A few years later, Ms. Neal continued, some students in student government felt that since the trust fund was back in balance, that the fee should be reduced. The reduction was approved by the Senate, and then the Board of Trustees.

“What that, in effect, did, was lower the Trust Fund back to the level it was in the early 90’s, which by the late 90’s was a significant decrease in buying power. It also meant that the next group of student senators coming in had to make some cuts. They had to make some decisions on how many students they would have working in the centers, the level of funding for student centers, things like that,” she said. Ms. Neal believes that had the reduction never happened, “the Senate wouldn’t be in the predicament it is now.”

“I’m not saying that they wouldn’t have needed some sort of increase, because, naturally over time anything left stagnant is going to have less and less buying power as the years go on, but they may not be in the position now of having to look for a dramatic increase,” she said.