Students divide over activities fee proposal

UPDATE, 6:34 PM: According to The Fordham Ram, 64% percent of the 918 students who participated voted to pass the proposal. The student activities fee referendum will now be reviewed by the Vice-President of Student Life.

ROSE HILL–Until 5:00 PM tonight, students may vote via OrgSync on a proposal that could greatly impact student life: whether or not to increase the student activities fee.

Fernandez's news post about the proposal.

Fernandez’s news post about the proposal.

According to an OrgSync news post by Natalia Fernandez, Assistant Director of Student Leadership in the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development, the proposal would raise the $120 activity fee by $15 per semester to $135. This change would incur an additional fee of $30 per student per year. Though an additional $60,000 in the club budget would be nice, the extra money would be tacked onto what is already one of the highest tuitions in the country.

According to United Student Government VP of Finance and Chair of Budget Committee Muhammad Sarwar, GSB ’14, who has been working on the proposal since its inception last spring, this change is much needed for the huge growth of clubs and organizations since 2002, when the fee was last increased. “We are no longer able to cover what clubs and student organizations ask [of] us…Over the past five semesters that I’ve been here, the average that [Budget Committee] can fund is 46 cents on the dollar.”

Sarwar also says $15 is a small price to pay for the benefits it would have for the entire campus community. “You have to be only going to your classroom and to your dormitory to say that you are not reaping the benefits of the student activities fee…if you pick up the newspaper, if you attend any event done through OSL, be it a Senior Night or a Family Weekend event…there’s a lot that they do that’s funded by the student activities fee.”

Students enjoying the 2013 Spring Weekend concert, which is in part funded by the student activities fee. Courtesy Emily Featherston.

Students enjoying the 2013 Spring Weekend concert, which is in part funded by the student activities fee. Courtesy Emily Featherston.

Treasurers and business managers across campus are excited about the prospects this could offer for clubs. Joe O’Brien, FCRH ’16 and treasurer of the College Democrats, is in favor of the change. “Its going to make my job a lot easier knowing that I have more wiggle room, to know that a proposal that I’m writing is not going to be shot down immediately,” O’Brien said in an interview.

Because the College Democrats appeal for some of the largest amounts from Budget Committee, sometimes in the area of $18,000, O’Brien and his fellow executive board members say the money could allow them to invite more prominent speakers to campus.

Even treasurers of clubs that have referendum status and get a set amount of money each semester are in favor of passing the proposal, including Dan Carter, business manager of The Mimes and Mummers. The FCRH senior manages the $15,000 the Mimes receive per semester, regardless of how much money is in the student activities pool. “Although it wouldn’t directly impact [my club], I think that having more money for events on campus is a plus…student life has been suffering [because of insufficient finds] and $30 isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, especially when tuition goes up several thousand dollars per year,” Carter says.  “The vast majority of students have benefitted from some kind of program funded by the fee.”

Many students, regardless of their leadership roles, agree. AJ Van Suetendael, FCRH ’16, says, “It’s a big thing for all members of the Fordham community. The increase in the activities fee is such a ridiculously small amount…complaining about it really just doesn’t make any sense.”

However, other students, particularly younger ones, are not in support of the proposal. David Schillinger, a FCRH sophomore and active member of the Theatrical Outreach Program, is frustrated by the lack of information provided to students about the increase. “I wish we knew a little more about this whole thing, like how much would each club benefit by this,” Schillinger says. FCRH freshman Rachel Stermlicht agrees. “I don’t know anything yet about clubs and their budgets, or lack thereof…I personally would sooner give $30 to whatever club I  was partaking in that needed the money than give it in my tuition and have it be distributed out.”

In the final hours before voting closes, USG and Budget Committee, led by Sarwar, are trying to get students to vote, regardless of their position. To help rally students for his cause, Sarwar puts Jesuit teaching behind the importance of adequate funding for clubs: “One of the tenants of the Fordham philosophy is cura personalis, care of the whole person. And we believe very strongly that as a Fordham student, my person involves academics and extracurriculars. If you choose to support this, what you’re choosing to do is support the whole person, as an involved member of the community.”

Voting via OrgSync, closes at 5:00 PM EST tonight, October 11, 2013.

*An earlier version of this article stated that the number of votes was 912.

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