Students to vote on activity fee increase

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On this year’s election ballot, Student Government Association added a referendum to increase the Student Activity Fee by $10 a semester.

The Student Activity Fee is a fee paid by every undergraduate student that is allocated by SGA to student groups during annual funding and spot-fund processes. The goal of the Student Activity Fee is to work toward the betterment of the student body. Any student can apply for funds from the Student Activity Fee, and the money is allocated at the discretion of senate and the SGA Finance Committee.

The proposed increase to the Student Activity Fee would increase the current semester fee from $45 to $55, increasing the total amount paid by each student annually from $90 to $110.

At this point, the Student Activity Fee generates approximately $720,000 annually. Should the referendum pass, the dollar amount would jump to about $900,000.

The bill to propose the referendum, passed in the Feb. 8 SGA meeting, states that it is crucial that the budget available to the Finance Committee to allocate to Chartered Student Organizations grows in comparison to the last fiscal year.

“Its important to have a vote on this because we have seen a doubling in CSOs since the last increase,” Financial Vice President Jonathan Serpas said. “I feel like there needs to be a little more money to provide funding for all these groups coming in.”

The last time the Student Activity Fee increased was in 2004, with a previous referendum to increase the fee failing in 2009. Since 2004, the number of CSOs at Saint Louis University has amounted to approximately 150.

According to SGA President Matt Ryan, SGA does not endorse the passing or failing of the referendum. He did acknowledge, however, that an increase in the fee would be beneficial when allocating funds.

“If the referendum does not pass, SGA will have about $180,000 less to work with, which will require greater cuts than if it is to pass,” Ryan said.

CSOs that are allocated Student Activity Fee funds use the money to host events for the student body, including events like speakers, performances and concerts. Funds are also used for organizational and promotional needs, such as posters and travel costs. The Student Activity Fee can also be allocated for special projects on campus. For example, the hammocks in the SLU quad were purchased with the Student Activity Fee. In the 2010-11 school year, student groups requested approximately $1.3 million in funds. Through the course of the funding process, the amount allocated totaled to about $820,000.

Vice President of Student Organizations Tyler Sondag said that he feels it is important that students understand the effects of the fee.

“The fee affects CSOs,” Sondag said. “It’s what they want. Students need to be educated and informed what the decision means.”

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Issues Committee, Luke Gatta, said he supports the Student Activity Fee Increase, as he sees it as an inverstment students can make in their community.

“I am grateful for the funding that [GIC] receives from the student community, and it is my hope that they see the dividends of the $45 each semester,” Gatta said. “This is apparent throughout campus–from the lectures GIC holds, to [Student Activities Board] concerts, to the club sports, service organizations, and more.”

Not every student is in full support of the fee increase, however. Junior Bani Saluja says she thinks the proposed increase is too expensive.

“The referendum has good intentions,” Saluja said. “I’m not interested in paying $20 extra, though it would be good for CSOs. I support an increase, but one of less value.”

Students can vote on the referendum on Monday, Feb. 27 on the ballot found in SLU Groups.