October 22, 2018

Students’ vote favors activity fee increase

A majority of undergraduate students voted in favor of an increase to the student activity fee, which would start fall 2014. All undergraduate students must pay this fee every semester. On the ballot, the referendum proposed raising the fee from $30 a semester to $100. The students’ vote serves as a recommendation for the administrative council, which ultimately decides whether to raise the fee.

The fee has previously funded Campus Activities and the Multicultural Center of International Students (MCISA). If an increase was passed the fee would also partially fund Student Government Association. If passed the referendum would potentially allow for more funds for programs and events on campus.

Graduate Assistant for Student Activities Bill Boxdorfer said in the past, Campus Activities’ portion of the activity fee has been used for events like the homecoming carnival and Spring Fest showcases. Graduating in May, Boxdorfer hopes the new activity fee will allow Campus Activities to have more frequent programming in the future.

“Instead of having an event every other week, have an event each week for the entire academic year and allow more larger-scale opportunity type programming for students,” Boxdorfer said.

Director of Student Activities and SGA Adviser Jennifer Stewart said the fee accounts for roughly 2,000 to 2,100 students,.Stewart estimated the fee pooled in about $60,000 a semester, or $120,000 a year. As of now, Campus Activities and MCISA are each allotted about $30,000 a semester.

Stewart said if each student is charged the proposed $100 to their tuition and fees, it will bring the pool to $200,000 a semester, or $400,000 a year. If that fee is approved by the administrative council, SGA will be added to the allowance and the money will be split three ways.

Stewart said the money will be distributed between the three organizations based on what each group estimates they will need for the year. After going through a request process with the dean of students office and an allocation board, the money will be divided accordingly. Stewart said SGA cannot start planning how they will use the extra money until they know if the fee has passed.

“Money could very easily be translated into increased amounts in the programming pool or student grant funding,” Stewart said.
Stewart said constitutional changes would have to be made before SGA could hand out more money to student organizations. Stewart said in the coming fall, they would immediately be able to provide more funding for programming pool and student grant funding because there “isn’t a constitutional guideline for how much money goes to those.”

Stewart submitted a report of the voting results to Assistant Provost for Student Affairs and Athletics Paul Carney to forward to the administrative council. Stewart said the report included the formal ballot said, the final voter numbers, the marketing methods and all the tactics used for voter education.

Carney said he received the report on Monday, April 21. He then gave the report to University President Elizabeth Stroble, Provost Julian Schuster and Chief Financial Officer Greg Gunderson.

Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said the council will be presented with the voting results and may reach a final decision some time this week. He said even though results show students are in favor of the increase, the council could reject the referendum.

“They could take a look at how many students actually voted on the referendum and decide that not enough students voted,” Giblin said. “[The council could say] We can’t force a fee increase when we don’t know for a fact that a majority of the students want this.”

Giblin said the council could cite the Delegates’ Agenda, new fee would not cover everything the students asked for and would need to be raised even higher. He said they could also table the issue and talk to more student leaders before reaching a verdict.

“It could take any number of iterations at the administrative council,” Giblin said. “Until they have a meeting and have all of that information in front of them, there’s not much that they can talk about.”

Former SGA Vice President and current MCISA Program Assistant Chris Whitmore wants to educate students about the potential benefits. Whitmore, also graduating in May, said the fee can give Webster students a better campus. He expressed a positive outlook even if the fee proposal is turned down.

“If it doesn’t pass, we would continue to use the resources that we currently have,” Whitmore said. “We would continue to find ways in order to make a great campus experience here at Webster.”

Whitmore said his initial concerns were not only getting students to vote for the fee increase, but also how commuter students would feel about the change. Webster commuter Myra Nelson voted in favor of the activity fee, originally hearing about it during an SGA campaign. As a commuting student, she said she already feels close and involved on campus but thinks the events could be better.

“The activities have been a little lacking,” Nelson said. “I thought it was a good idea, especially when they compared it to other schools. I felt it was pretty fair.”

Maxwell said if the fee is approved, the organization will supplement the existing allocation fund with what they get from the activity fee.

Dean of Students Ted Hoef said the fee was originally brought up by students at the spring Delegates’ Agenda. Hoef said the topic was selected along with more student organization funding through SGA.

“There was an appeal made for additional funding for student organizations as well as for campus wide programming,” Hoef said. “The administrative response from the Delegates’ Agenda took place, and they indicated the university was open to (the fee increase) and students should vote on it in a referendum.”

Stewart and Hoef both referred to the original student activity fee which was brought to life in 2006. Hoef said that decision was made off of a student referendum as well.

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