The Student Association voted wisely Tuesday evening to put a referendum on upcoming election ballots for a student fee that would end the University’s control of SA funding and give it to the students.
The fee, which amounts to $1 a credit hour, will abolish an old system that left allocations to the discretion of Student Academic and Support Services and apply it directly to the number of students the SA serves. But by wrapping the new system around a hefty $60,000 increase in SA funds, according to SA estimates, the SA failed to give students who favor the change but not the increase a true voice in the issue.
Under the present system, the SA receives a budget taken from GW tuition dollars to allocate to student groups and other expenses. The dollar amount changes yearly, and jumped more than $50,000 this year without student input. The Senate’s proposal to form a budget separate from tuition costs would put SA funds at the mercy of students, who would have to approve any fee increase through a referendum.
The result of the proposed fee would give students more autonomy from GW in their extracurricular activities by putting their money directly in the hands of other students. It would be up to fellow students to not only dish out more cash if they feel student organizations need money, but to agree with the majority of GW students to do so.
The system also distinguishes between levels of student participation in campus life. Part-time students will not be paying for time they spend off campus, but a limit of $15 a semester stops students with more than 15 credits from being penalized. Since the money is going directly to the SA, the thousands of dollars that accumulate from all unused student-group funds at the end of the year will not return to the University, but remain under SA control where is belongs.
The proposed fee will work for students only if the SA continues to work for students. As long as the collected money is fairly distributed to student groups and not used overzealously at the executive level, the SA will live up to its purpose. However, if the extra funds are used to inflate an executive budget that was commendably slashed earlier this year, students should not wait for a vote to let their concerns be known.