SFC Plans for Student Activity Fee Increase
Responding to an array of budget crises — most recently the turmoil over club sports funding — members of the Student Finance Committee have taken steps toward raising the Student Activity Fee by $25 per semester, resulting in a near doubling of the fund by 2011 when the increases would halt. While this proposal must first pass approval by the Board of Trustees, the Student Life Committee and the General Faculty, the student body will not have a chance to weigh in on this issue.
According to College senior and SFC Co-Chair Colin Jones, a principle architect of the proposal, “There’s been signs for a while that the SFC doesn’t have enough money. During last spring’s tight allocations, we were given demands we couldn’t realistically meet and put in a difficult position. It’s something we’ve had to do for a while. We don’t look competitive in comparison with other schools.”
SFC Organizational Liaison and College junior Ben Klebanoff agreed: “There is a desperate need for more financial resources for student organizations. I think that chartered organizations provide students with a central aspect of their Oberlin experience — if these organizations are unable to carry out their core functions, they might as well not exist.”
He noted that club sports teams “really felt the brunt” of the insufficient budget because of the spending caps and scales placed on them. Frustrated, club sports members addressed the Board of Trustees last spring to send a message, in Jones’ words, “that this isn’t working.”
After hearing the woes of club sports and other under-funded student organizations, the Board of Trustees expressed support for a higher student activity fee that could fund more on- and off-campus projects.
“We have a green light from them,” said Jones. “They showed their confidence in us getting this done. There are demands, and they don’t have to put up the money, so there’s no downside for them. They want us to be ambitious.”
After getting the go-ahead, Jones, Klebanoff and SFC Co-Chair and double-degree junior Alex Birnie and former Senator and College senior Colin Koffel, drafted a proposal that would go into effect in the 2008-2009 school year. Jones noted that the wages approval for the SFC by the Student Referendum in December was “real motivation to do more work,” and helped the members through extensive revisions of the proposal during Winter Term.
On February 3, the authors of the proposal sent out the finalized version to College officials including Vice President of Finance Ron Watts, Dean of Students Linda Gates and Secretary of the College Diana Roose. The SFC will present the proposal to the General Faculty on February 20.
“It’s exciting to bring something like this, something so needed, for the GF,” said Jones. “I expect it will be received well. There are so many clubs that relate a lot to academic work that will benefit from this.”
Outlining his reasons for supporting the proposal, Birnie said, “We want to be able to provide Oberlin students with the resources and the opportunities to do what they do best, which is to create and improve the world around them. It is our intention to support the students in every way we can, because they are by far the greatest asset of this college.”
When asked why students won’t have the opportunity to vote on this proposal, Jones commented, “There comes a time when you question how many levels of bureaucracy we have. This is where SFC and Student Senate have to lead. We see what the needs are and make the change, do the work. This is what we were elected for, and it’s widely known that this needs to be done.”
Jones shared his excitement for all the opportunities this extra money will bring — a projected $1 million in total by 2011. “If it passes, we can plan for spring with immediate improvements,” he said. “We’re going to have the potential to do a lot of cool things. Instead of complaining that we don’t have what we want for the campus, students can get that stuff; infrastructure, larger capital type things. We can do it!”
In the words of the proposal, “Whether it is the SCUBA team training for underwater research, cultural groups organizing symposiums or teams traveling for athletic tournaments, activity funds are fueling the passion of students to excel. These efforts carry the name and mission of Oberlin into the world. It is important that students have the resources to make our projects happen.”
Birnie echoed this sentiment: “Whether it be a service that isn’t offered on campus, a student interest that is not being served or even global issues that are affecting our entire campus and community, Oberlin students continuously step up with a dedication that I have rarely seen anywhere else.”