Hearings need student voice

With students again facing double-digit tuition increases, the Student Services Fees Committee’s efforts to contain costs are understandable. Unfortunately, its efforts for the most part far exceed any benefit students might see from a $15 reduction in fees. The cuts – particularly those to campus cultural centers – could devastate student groups and their programming. Since the initial subcommittee allocations were released last week, the committee has voted to increase the funding levels of a number of organizations. But their increases are not enough.

While it is true that granting every group its entire request would be irresponsible, the fact remains that Student Services Fees serve an integral role at the University. The funding provided by these fees enables the growth and, in tough financial times, the survival of the marketplace of ideas. It simply is not worth it for students to lose so much of what fees-receiving groups provide in exchange for what amounts to about three burritos from Chipotle per semester.

Moreover, the fees committee’s task is not to ease the financial burden on students, a burden it neither created nor controls enough money to alleviate. The approximately $18 million allocated by the group translates into between $250 to $280 per student. The lion’s share of that goes to groups such as Boynton Health Service and the University’s recreation center.

The amount left over is divided among all the remaining student groups and is not substantial enough to make a real dent in students’ finances unless the committee was willing to entirely cut them all.

Since the funding is so diversified, the small amount of money garnered for students by scaling back on the remaining allocations is far outweighed by the benefit fees-receiving groups provide.

On top of that, the fees committee’s place is not that of a personal accountant. Its job is to allocate money to groups that contribute to the diversity, learning experience and culture of this campus. In essence, its job is to spend money, not save it.

We recognize this job is compounded exponentially by the fact that the money committee members spend is only marginally their own. The vast majority of that $18 million will come from their peers. During a time when the economy is in recession, tuition is skyrocketing and job prospects are bleak, telling tens of thousands of people they must give more should certainly give fees committee members pause.

But diluting the experiences available to those students is not the answer.

Determining what the answer should be requires students to attend the open hearing scheduled today and in the coming weeks. Without input provided by students, it would be nearly impossible to reach fair funding decisions.

Once again, students will have to shell out more of their money. At least in this process, the opportunity exists for students to determine where that money will go.