Council of Deans ban fund solicitation

    Beginning in fall 2003, resident advisors will no longer be allowed to solicit activity funds from their local on-campus residents, following a mandate by the Council of Deans to eliminate the widespread practice. This issue was brought to the attention of the council by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, who has taken a stance against the collection of these dues.

    In the past, many RAs asked students at the outset of the year to contribute money toward a house fund. The money raised through these efforts provided a source of finance through which RAs could fund student activities in the residential halls or apartments over which they presided.

    However, several students complained to Watson that these contributions were not entirely voluntary and placed an unfair and unwarranted burden on some residents.

    Watson referred the issue to the council, which decided that the annual $16 per-capita provided to RAs for student activities by Housing & Dining Services was adequate, and that soliciting students for additional revenue was unnecessary and unfair.

    “”It’s not voluntary,”” Watson said. “”There is a high degree of compulsion, and students have already paid. When they pay their housing dues, they are paying for a full program that includes social activities.””

    Watson also argued that money can be a major object early in the year for some students, and that those students who are unable or uninterested in contributing to the house reserve can become alienated from the community and thereby excluded from its activities.

    Some RAs, however, argue that current funds available for student activities are insufficient.

    According to Resident Dean of Revelle College Kevin Jones, Revelle has already faced a $17,000 budget cut from student affairs. Banning voluntary funds, Jones said, will cut an estimated additional $28,000 from the budget.

    According to Jones, Revelle RAs put on one program per week in addition to the six large-scale events per quarter that are hosted by Revelle College. With the pending drop in available funds, Jones said that the future of these student programs is uncertain.

    Amir Younes, a House Advisor in John Muir College whose job is equivalent to that of an RA, expressed similar concern over the abolishment of voluntary activity funds.

    “”I think it’s a horrible decision,”” Younes said. “”The money we collect helps to program and coordinate activities, and these activities allow people to interact with others in the house [and help formulate] an important part of community life.””

    Younes refuted the notion that solicited funds maintained a high level of “”compulsion.”” According to Younes, the handful of students in his house who declined to contribute to group funding nonetheless remained members of the house community and have remained welcome to all group activities.

    However, Younes said that there could be a certain degree of peer pressure applied from fellow students.

    Swetha Bharadvaj, a Revelle RA, worried that without initial student contributions, RAs would be forced to charge residents “”a dollar for every slice of pizza.”” Bharadvaj argued that charging students for each individual activity would greatly erode student participation and discourage community events.

    Bharadvaj also described the collection of student activity funds as “”entirely voluntary,”” and that in her house, “”every resident paid without problems.””

    Some students disapproved of the solicitation.

    “”We pay a lot to the school already”” said Revelle freshman Jerry Kuerbiss. “”The payments didn’t seem voluntary at all. I thought that if I didn’t pay the dues, I couldn’t join the activities.””

    In order to offset projected decreases in revenue, Watson has suggested raising the housing rate to accommodate student activities. Putting the price tag on housing fees would “”at least be up front,”” and could be helpful for students with financial aid, according to Watson.

    Pending increases in housing dues will now be up for discussion, according to Watson.

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