Voluntary funds should not be banned

    Despite the perks of on-campus housing and a free meal plan, being a residential advisor comes with a number of headaches. In addition to introducing a herd of freshman into their individual collegiate experiences, there are policies to explain, procedures to follow and events to plan. Thanks to a mandate from the Council of Deans, some aspects of the job just got a lot harder.

    Beginning fall quarter 2003, RAs will no longer be allowed to solicit activity funds from their local on-campus residents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 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 such dues.

    Currently, RAs use an annual $16 per-capita fund provided by Housing and Dining Services. Once those funds run out, RAs ask their students to fork over the cash needed to fund various activities. Those activities can range from a trip to Los Angeles for a taping of “”The Price is Right”” to “”Godfather”” marathons to ice cream sundae fests.

    According to the council’s decision, the $16 amount is sufficient for planned activities, and soliciting students for additional revenue would be unnecessary and unfair.

    Ask any RA if the $16 is sufficient, and it’s a different perspective.

    For example, banning voluntary funds could cut an estimated $28,000 from Revelle College’s budget, which has already faced a $17,000 budget cut from student affairs. Instead of reducing pressure on students to pay — keep in mind, these banned funds were never mandatory — it’s increasing pressure on RAs to somehow find ways to encourage student interaction without funds.

    It’s a false dichotomy to present this scenario as one in which either the RAs ask for funds from the students or they rely solely on the $16 per resident. A third option that has been suggested to offset the projected decreases in revenue is to raise the on-campus housing rate in order to accommodate student activities.

    This option is perhaps more reasonable than a collection per activity. If students had paid a fee at the start of the quarter, they would be more likely to participate in activities throughout the year, wanting to take advantage of funds that they had provided.

    But instead of asking students to foot the bill at the start of the year when they’re already hit with first time tuition and textbooks, there could be a university-subsidized fund that would give RAs the financial resources to plan activities without hitting up their residents.

    Such a method would set up a pool of financial resources for RAs to use that wouldn’t force RAs to act as bursars or students to shell out cash just to hang out with their peers.

    RAs shouldn’t be put in the position of collecting funds from eager students. When participation is based on affordability, it limits both the activities and the number of participants.

    For an increasingly large number of UCSD students, freshman year is the only time that they will be living on campus, and consequently the only time when they will have easy access to planned social events with their peers. It’s an important time as far as the formation of bonds with fellow students and can potentially provide relationships that will last throughout college.

    As such, it’s important not to jeopardize that time by making it overly difficult for RAs to plan events with their students simply because raising sufficient funds proved to be too much of a hassle.

    Once the Eleanor Roosevelt College housing expansion is finished, there is little chance that there will be vast increases in on-campus housing any time in the near future, meaning that there are likely to be no increases in the number of students living on campus. Under such conditions, there should be an increased concern for making the most of that limited time on campus, as opposed to the difficulties presented by the council’s current mindset.

    Dozens of students battle it out for RA positions every year. The competition can be ridiculously fierce for a job so demanding albeit rewarding. If there is a double standard in forcing students to pay for voluntary activities, the solution is not to make it harder on RAs to provide social events, but rather to place the burden on a party that can afford to pay.

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