A.S. Council Mulls the Introduction of New Fees

The A.S. Council is in the process allow students to decide if they want to to increase their quarterly activity fee by as much as $8.

Billy Wong/Guardian
A.S. Commissioner of Programming Eric Morris and his staff work inside in the programming office. The A.S. Council is considering raising student fees to fund the events.

Led by A.S. President Christopher Sweeten, the council is considering a potential fee referendum that would raise council funding mainly for the A.S. Programming office. In order for a referendum to be put onto the ballot, it must first be passed by two-thirds of the voting A.S. senators or requested by a petition from 10 percent of the undergraduate student body. It must then be approved by university administrators, including acting Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary R. Ratcliff, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson and Chancellor Mary Anne Fox.

Of the two potential referenda discussed by the council, the first would allocate $8 per quarter from each student specifically for A.S. programming, which sponsors annual concerts such as Sun God and WinterFest. The second proposal would entail a $3.50 per quarter increase that would be specifically reserved for the Student Initiated Outreach and Recruitment Commission, a body that pays for programs targeting disadvantaged high school students.

Currently, students pay a $21 quarterly activity fee.

A similar increase for outreach was rejected last year, when a $3-per-quarter hike for SIORC, supported by councilmembers, was rejected by the student body by a margin of about 500 votes. One variable potentially affecting the referenda is whether “return-to-aid,” a UC Office of the President policy that requires a certain portion of campus-based student fees to go toward financial aid scholarships, would affect this policy.

“We’re going to ask what the situation is regarding ‘return-to-aid,’” A.S. Vice President of Academic Affairs Harry Khanna said at the Feb. 1 A.S. Council meeting.

UCOP is in the final stages of editing the policy, but student governments were told to plan on it being in effect for spring referenda items, according to A.S. Adviser Lauren Weiner.

“We left the numbers as they stood,” Sweeten said, in regards to inflating the fee proposal to account for the financial aid rollover. “It’s been sent to Vice Chancellor Watson, and it will come back to the council for readjustment later.”

When some senators questioned whether or not proposing fee increases would be in the best interests of the student body, Sweeten put the numbers in perspective to other UC campuses.

“At UC Berkeley, the students pay their A.S. almost $500,” Sweeten said. “We are actually the lowest-charging UC school for what we do.”

In the event students do pass the $8 programming referendum, it would free up $250,000 of A.S. money usually spent on programming for other services. “It would allow the A.S. to grow, and to do more things for the students,” Sweeten said.

According to Weiner, there has not been a general increase of A.S. activity fees since 2001.

Readers can contact Matt L’Heureux at [email protected].