Weighing the student activity fee

Saint Louis University students want to have a good time. The question that will be presented to them on the Feb. 26 ballot is: Do they want to pay for it?

Along with voting for Student Government positions, SLU students will also vote regarding two separate referendums concerning the student activity fee. The first will be deciding whether the fee should continue to be implemented, and the second will be deciding whether or not to raise the fee from the current $19 per semester to $30 a semester.

“It’s important for students to know how critical this fee is to the success of student organizations in the future,” explained Pat Contreras, Student Activity Board activity fee campaign co-chair. “It’s especially important for some of the smaller organizations who don’t do a lot of outside fund-raising.”

Contreras added, “It’s really not that much. For $11 you can go buy a Wyclef CD, but with $11 added to the student activity fee you can have him come and play on campus.”

The $11 increase was agreed on by the SGA Finance Committee after reviewing the difference between the amount of money asked for over the past three years and the amount of money allocated.

“The problem is that with the money we have, we can’t support the number of student organizations,” Contreras said.

The number of chartered student organizations has risen from 47 in 1998 to 56 in 1999, and finally 63 in 2000, an increase of about 34 percent since 1998.

Ryan Murphy, SAB president, said that if students vote to erase the activities fee, it would severely limit the scope of SAB.

“If we don’t keep the activity fee, there won’t be big-name comedians, big concerts, or events like Spring Fever. We’ll go back to no-name comedians and students putting on small concerts.”

SGA President Jay Perry said, “The fee is crucial for student activities and student life on campus.”

Perry said that the original fee was set low so that SGA could prove it could handle the money. “We’ve proved fiscal accountability to the students,” he said.

All three SGA presidential campaigns this year have endorsed the increase, but also suggest that student organizations must be held accountable for their finances and seek outside fund-raising if necessary.

SLU students have mixed feelings about paying more each semester.

“The more money we spend, the bigger chance there is of having more student organizations, and that means more students getting involved on campus,” said sophomore Katie Lewis. “Having more students involved will create a better university.”

Freshman Crystal Nottke doesn’t agree.

“I think there’s already plenty of money for student organizations. If they need more money, they should do fund-raisers,” she said.

SLU’s student activity fee is significantly smaller than some other schools.

Washington University, for example, has a fee of around $245 this year, which will increase to $257 next year. The fee is set at a standard one percent of tuition. If SLU were to abide by that standard, the fee for 2001-2002 would be approximately $197.

Georgetown University, on the other hand, is currently working to establish a student activity fee. While the students have already approved this charge, it has to be passed by the board of directors later this month. The fee, if accepted as approved by the students, would be phased in gradually and would be $50 per semester by 2003-2004.

Notre Dame University charges students a slightly higher fee than what is being asked of SLU students-$32.50 per semester.