To the Editor:
As the author of the student activities supplement proposal the YCC recently passed, I would like to respond to some concerns raised in The News’ View “Activities fee should be put to student vote” (4/22).
First, the Yale Daily News Editorial Board asserts that the fee revenues would only fund a “few select organizations.” Their argument focuses on the legitimacy of a mandatory fee funding the YCC and club sports, two “very specific subsets of campus activities.” However, the majority of the proceeds (40 percent) would go towards sustaining the over 240 campus-wide organizations registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office. The rest would support two substantial subsets of campus activities that are especially hurting due to a lack of adequate funding. The YCC has only $9,000 up-front at the start of each year compared to the over $65,000 available to Harvard’s Undergraduate Council; each club sport obtains an average of only $500 at Yale, a paltry amount compared to Dartmouth’s average grants of $1,400 and Columbia’s $7,500. I also question the alleged “specificity” of the YCC and club sports. The YCC sponsors most of Yale’s popular, campus-wide activities, including the Spring Fling and Winter Ball. And the club sports teams here generate crowds at several of their competitions and have memberships that overshadow many of the 241 UOFC-funded organizations in size.
Second, we proposed a mandatory fee to eliminate the free-rider problem that would inevitably result from an optional fee. The Board implicitly asks, why should a student who doesn’t participate in any campus organizations, club sports or the YCC pay the supplement? Because that student lives in an atmosphere rich with student performances, publications and organizations, regardless of whether she organizes the performance or writes for the publication. As evidence of the strength of this argument, 10 of the 12 major schools we researched assess a mandatory supplement, including six of the other seven Ivy League schools. Students can voice their opposition to a student activities supplement by electing YCC representatives who oppose the fee and by recalling representatives who support the fee, as student governance is meant to work. In the end, we may adopt the senior dues construct that the Board suggests, but only as a compromise with the administration.
A student activities supplement would really bolster the activities of undergraduate organizations, including club sports, and it would secure a much more popular band for Spring Fling. And the supplement only represents a miniscule 2 percent of the recent tuition increase.
Matthew Harsha-Strong ’06
April 25, 2004
The writer is the UOFC chairman.