By Alex Morgan
This year there have been a number of mysteries on campus. Some were more serious, such as details about construction and the financing of bonds. Others were less serious, like the host of the Frelon party or the date of DoGL. Yet nothing has stumped students more this year than the student activities fee. Despite my own frequent attempts to inform my fellow students of the fee and its purpose, I still have my own questions.
In last week’s The Index, sophomore Aldo Macias attributed Assistant Director of Student Involvement Kate Yancho with saying that Student Commission maintains the majority of the fee. This is utterly false.
Student Commission receives approximately one-third of the fee. Roughly $100,000. Student Commission allocates ninety percent of those dollars to student organizations that put on great events like Frelon, C.A.T., and Crystal Ball. Another five percent is held in case student organizations spend too much. The final five percent is used to make copies for meetings, organize the annual Triathlon, and pay for DoGL busses.
Further, Student Commission is the only recipient of the fee that posts its spending online. This information is available at http://reason.kzoo.edu/stucomm. The Office of Student Development and Media Services do no such thing.
Students are told that one-third of the fee goes to “central programming” which is likely anything sponsored by Student Involvement. Yet, students are not told the cost of these line items. This is troubling because I hear overwhelmingly positive comments about Monte Carlo and Friday-night movies, but less than stellar reviews of cake decorating and finger painting.
We are told that the final third of the fee goes to several organizations including The Cauldron, The Index, WJMD, club sports, and media fees. Because Student Commission funded all of these items in the past, I know that collectively they should cost approximately $50,000. So where is the other $50,000? When I hear people talk about a “secret fund” I can only guess that this is it.
Let me be clear: I do not think anyone is trying to create a secret fund, but I do believe the fee has created an aura of secrecy and suspicion. I believe this is because only one-third of the fee is distributed by directly-elected students and the other two-thirds are distributed by administrators.
Last week, Commissioners Meredith Quinlan and Darrin Camilleri sponsored a resolution that calls for an independently elected committee of students to distribute the fee. It passed unanimously in the Commission Assembly. Just like Student Commission, the body would be directly representative of students and would be tasked solely with serving the interests of the student body.
You may be asking why I do not propose that Student Commission take on this role. That is because Student Commission is a recipient of the fee, and, quite simply, I think it would be wrong of us to determine our own budget in such a manner.
I am not an advocate of the student activities fee. I see it as an additional financial burden on our student body during an economic downturn. However, if it must exist and if it is directly earmarked for student activities, then it must be distributed by the very students that pay the fee. It is the only way to ensure true transparency and put secrecy and suspicion to rest.