Next semester the Student Association will hold a referendum on whether to raise the $1 per-credit-hour activities fee to two dollars. While the current $1 fee is leaving student groups under-funded, both the timing and size of the increase is a serious cause for concern.
Currently, the fee generates about $450,000 per year. These funds cover undergraduate and graduate student organizations. As a result, the SA’s ability to adequately fund smaller student groups is diminished, especially since student governments at schools of comparable size have much higher budgets. It is clear the SA needs more funds in order to foster the growth of these organizations. Even the Student Federation at American University, with a student body substantially smaller than GW’s, receives $750,000 for its undergraduate population alone.
To solve this problem the SA has proposed a 100 percent increase of the current fee. If the SA had proven in the past to be trustworthy with these funds, this increase would still be a lot to ask of students. Unfortunately, this year’s SA is not far removed from the financial scandals that plagued the organization for most of last year. SA President Kris Hart and Executive Vice President Eric Daleo, along with many members of the Senate, were all part of last year’s SA and were close to a scandal during which student funds were misused for alcohol. So far, the SA has not undergone the full audit of its financial affairs it promised the student body last year.
All this being said, the current $1 fee with no mechanism for future growth is unsatisfactory. The fee has no way to keep up with the inflation rate, and with each passing year it loses some of its value. This means the dollar students are paying now is not worth the same it was even last year. Instead of unilaterally raising the fee, the SA should adjust it to compensate for the lost value over the past couple of years and link future raises to the inflation rate.
The Hatchet cannot endorse the referendum, in its current form, to raise this fee. The SA must develop a coherent policy governing this fee or it will find itself in the same position some time down the road. Increasing total value of the fee – meaning more than what inflation would dictate – is unacceptable until the SA submits to a professional audit and finds a way to ensure the safeguarding of student money from personal abuse.