Students will vote this week on whether to double the Student Association fee to $2 per credit, up to 15 hours.
The SA has funded itself since the 2000-01 academic year, when students voted in a referendum to add a $1 per-credit-hour charge to their tuition bill.
The SA’s budget, which funds all recognized student groups on campus, has grown from about $285,000 three years ago to about $470,000 this year. If the referendum passes, the budget will be just less than a million dollars for next year.
This week’s referendum needs a majority vote to pass. Students can vote Wednesday and Thursday in the Marvin Center ground floor and Thurston Hall, among other locations.
“The University used to fund us out of their pocket,” said Mohammed Ali, Finance Committee chair. “They can hold that over our heads. We’re accountable to the students now.”
Student leaders said organizations could receive larger allocations from additional funding if the referendum passes.
“(This money) won’t go into the bowels of the University,” said SA Executive Vice President Eric Daleo. “The students will see a direct benefit every day.”
Some SA members said the referendum will allow student groups to hold more programming events and increase their membership. The SA sponsors about 300 organizations.
“It’s the only opportunity that student groups will get to grow and to improve student life on campus,” Ali said. “A lot of the campaign promises of this year’s candidates depend on having that money.
But several Senate members said they oppose the referendum and suggested tying the SA fee to tuition or inflation increases, or adding a predetermined amount each year.
“Getting more money now doesn’t provide for regular increases in the future,” said Sen. J.P. Blackford (G-SEAS). “The same problem we’re having now we’ll have in a few years. (The referendum) is probably not going to pass.”
Some students said they would not mind if a referendum passes.
“I don’t care,” junior Mariana Albin said. “One more dollar isn’t going to make a difference.”
Other students said they think the SA should not receive more funding because members have not reached out to students enough.
“The SA is a pretty well-funded organization,” sophomore Amin Al-Sarraf said. “I think it’s pretty ridiculous for them to do it like this, if the students aren’t going to know about it. I didn’t know about it.”
The referendum comes in the midst of an SA campaign to get an external audit of its financial system.
Last semester, SA President Kris Hart found more than $60,000 in unexplainable expenditures and entries in SA and Student Academic and Support Services financial records. The SA called for an external audit of records, which officials said they would complete this semester.
“So many people say that money is missing, that it’s been stolen, and that is completely incorrect,” Hart said. “There was not one dollar spent this year that was spent incorrectly.”
Hart said he will meet with officials in the next two weeks to discuss records. Associate Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for SASS Johnnie Osborne did not return phone calls Thursday and Friday.
“There’s nothing I’m trying to hide,” Hart said.
However, some senators said they do not trust Hart with SA finances.
“The whole thing has been done under the table from the beginning,” said Sen. Asher Corson (U-CCAS).