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May 8, 2009

SG drafts opposition to admin’s Student Life Fee consolidation

Student Government (SG) passed a resolution Thursday protesting the University’s plan to change the current student activities billing policy to create a new Student Life Fee. The new Student Life Fee is a combination of three fees that are now separate on students’ bills: the Health and Wellness Fee (68 percent of the new fee), the current Student Activities Fee (26 percent), and a new Resources Fee (6 percent). The Resources Fee will go into a pool to cover all laboratory costs for classes with labs, replacing the current system in which students pay their own fees for the individual lab classes they take. The new fee will cost $277 next year, with a separate fee for graduate students.Vice President for Campus Life Kimberly Goff-Crews detailed the changes in an e-mail sent to all students on April 17, which said the move was made to “simplify the student bill,” and would “result in a change in the way we collect fees that support access to a variety of academic resources.”“It concerns me mainly because I see it as losing transparency in the student bill,” said second-year College Council (CC) representative Mark Redmond, who drafted the SG resolution. “The three fees that make up the fee could be shifted around in ways they couldn’t be before. It’s in favor of the students to see where these fees are changing, and it’s disturbing to me that this would be lost.” SG’s resolution specifically requests that the three items be listed separately on the bill: “We feel that access to knowledge of the specific use of compulsory fees is critical.” “It’s maintaining students’ abilities to know what they’re paying for,” Redmond said. Third-year CC representative Prerna Nadathur said she wants the administration to back up their claims with hard data.“My issue with this is partly that the only reason for the change that anyone has been able to get is that they’re simplifying the bill, and if the end result is three items on the bill instead of five—I’d rather have more information,” third-year CC representative Prerna Nadathur said. “The University says it had requests to simplify the bill, but they haven’t provided any anecdotal or statistical evidence that this is the case, and it makes me suspicious.” She added, “Personally I would hate for this to happen, because I pay some parts of my bill and my parents pay others.” Members at the SG meeting raised concerns that changes in the percentage composition of the new fee would not be public; rather, they might be made only by e-mail. “It’s a symbolic point. I’ve been seeing regular patterns that the University has been making decisions that affect the livelihood of students without consulting the student body,” Joe Bonni, a third-year anthropology graduate student, said. “They’ve made major changes without getting proper feedback for them,” Bonni said, citing last year’s Graduate Aid Initiative, which came under fire from graduate students who felt they hadn’t been consulted about the changes. Fourth-year and SG President Matt Kennedy said that when the University administration first proposed the fee changes to the SG slate, the slate immediately protested against it. However, he never brought the issue to CC, according to Redmond. “It was the strongest argument we’ve made to the University,” Kennedy said, adding that SG’s protests might have had some, albeit small, impact. “For example, originally the percentages of the different fees were not going to be included in the e-mail.” SG will present the resolution to Goff-Crews at a meeting next Wednesday. A University representative could not be reached for comment.

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