Activities fee should be put to student vote

If the Yale College Council has its way, just when we’ve gotten over the first round of sticker shock, the cost of a Yale education is about to go up even higher. In an unanimous vote Sunday, the YCC voted to instate a $30 activities fee, which would be added to each student’s tuition as early as the 2004-2005 school year. The money raised, estimated to be $158,000, would be divided among the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, the YCC and club sports.

Such a mandatory fee to fund select student organizations troubles us. Before we’re blindsided by an even higher fall term bill, we’d like to see more comprehensive plans for how exactly the money would be used, as well as a student vote on the proposed increase. And if the fee is approved, students should be able to opt out of it, instead of being forced to surrender a few extra dollars for the benefit of a few select organizations.

To be fair, the activities fee is far from unusual. All the other Ivy League schools already have an activities fee, and Yale’s proposed fee would be the lowest of the bunch. And of course, we’d love to see the UOFC and YCC get all the money it can. A bigger budget means that more student groups get funded, the YCC can develop more student services, and, we’re promised, a supposedly better Spring Fling band. But this funding shouldn’t be forced from the wallets of students and their families.

To fund the UOFC, which serves campus organizations in general, is one thing; to fund the YCC and club sports, which are their own organizations unto themselves, is quite another. To make all students pay to fund the activities of two very specific subsets of campus activities is problematic. One could argue that its fair because the YCC and club sports serve the campus community, but so do many other organizations on campus. Why can’t they decide to make all students pay to support them?

At the very least, we’d like the student body to have the opportunitiy to vote on the proposed activities fee before Yale acts on the YCC’s recommendation. Lest the YCC forget, tuition increased dramatically for the 2004-2005 school year. For the council to then assert that it must have more money seems ridiculously narrow-minded. So before we open our wallets, we’d like to see more details on exactly how the funds raised from the fee will be used. The YCC should outline exactly what programs it will fund with the money and then let students vote on whether or not they support the new fee. The YCC should not be afraid of a student vote since the council is, after all, supposed to represent student opinion.

If we must have an activities fee, we’d like to advocate an alternative that was suggested by several candidates during last week’s YCC officer elections. In the best of scenarios, the activities fee would function like senior class dues. Students who object would be able to opt out of paying the fee, but those who do pay will be entitled to discounted admission to YCC events and services. Those who opt out of paying the fee can enjoy both the events and services, but will have to pay more for them. That way students who go four years without ever attending Winter Ball or using the airport shuttle won’t have to pay $120 so others can.

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