SMPA fees set a bad precedent

As graduate student in the School of Media and Public Affairs, I am writing concerning the recently announced fees for SMPA students as reported in The Hatchet (Nov. 22, p. 1 University to charge SMPA students for new facility).

As I understand, I am not directly affected as a graduate student. However, I still feel the need to write in protest of the fees. There are a number of reasons I am opposed to these fees, aside from the fact that this decision was made behind closed doors with no discussion or input from those affected. Students had to find out from the campus newspaper.

Two thousand dollars may not seem like much to those who made the decision, but I think it is a very significant amount for those students who will pay. These fees will hurt enrollment in the SMPA programs. Students are already required to go through an application process and must be accepted into SMPA from the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences. There will be very little incentive to join SMPA if these fees are instituted. I am sure many students will elect to be a media and public affairs minor or take SMPA classes as electives rather than pay these fees.

I’ve even spoken to SMPA undergraduates who have said that such a fee may force them to drop out. The fact is everyone will use this building and everyone will benefit from it.

As one of its functions, this building is specifically designed to host media events. The topics for these events could range from politics to physics. Additionally, everyone benefits from the increased prestige and visibility of the University.

The fact is that what is good for one department in the University is good for everyone involved with the University. To single out students for fees when these will not be the only students benefiting seems an injustice. Even within the degree program, there are some students that will have much more access to the technology for which these fees are intended. Someone on the electronic media track will use and have access to much more of this technology than those students who elect to focus on political communication.

Are we then to assess fees to only those electronic media students? It seems to be a strange precedent to begin to sell degrees a la carte. Using this logic, an English major should pay less because they use less technology. Chemistry majors should pay much more.

The really disturbing fact is how this money could be distributed among the general population. At approximately 250 SMPA majors times the $2,000 fee, that is $500,000. Spread out among 7,000 undergraduate students, that is only $71.43. Or why not spread out the fee among the graduate students as well, seeing that everyone benefits from this upgrade? That would reduce the cost to $29.41 a student!

These targeted fees are misguided. It will do nothing but hurt the SMPA program and, in turn, the University as well. The media are an ever-present aspect of our society, and the study of it is one of the largest growing disciplines at any institution. To single this program out and set it back for what would amount to $3.68 a semester over every student’s four-year career is not a wise decision.

I am quite sure students would sacrifice one Super-Size meal at McDonald’s for the sake of upgrading the quality of their education and the reputation of their institution.

-The writer is a first-year graduate student in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

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