A proposal for Yale’s administration to add an optional $50 student activities fee to undergraduate tuition is being pushed forward by the Yale College Council and will be subject to a college-wide referendum in about two weeks.
The activities fee would bolster funding for preexisting events such as Spring Fling and Winter Ball as well as fund new activities like this year’s Winter Arts Festival, YCC President Andrew Cedar ’06 said. In addition, it would support club sports and other student organizations that have been incurring rising costs in recent years, he said.
Money for student activities and organizations is part of students’ tuition and is managed by the Yale College Dean’s Office and then distributed through the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, a branch of the YCC.
Although the fee technically would be optional, it would be charged automatically to students’ bursar accounts each year. Students wishing to opt out of the fee would have to make their preference known at the beginning of the semester.
The YCC, which threw its weight behind the proposal at a meeting Tuesday night, is organizing a campus-wide vote on the proposal to take place on the YaleStation online portal in about two weeks, Cedar said. If a majority of students indicate their support of the measure, the administration may implement the fee as early as the fall of 2005.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, who has been discussing the proposed fee with University President Richard Levin, said he sees “real advantages” to the proposed activities fee.
“It produces a big pot of money that can be used to support activities that aren’t necessarily part of the central academic education of students, but might be fun for the students,” Salovey said. “But I would want a lot of student input on something like this.”
The administration is reluctant to support such a measure, unless it generates strong support from the student body, Salovey said.
Students paid a similar optional activities fee about 25 years ago, but eventually it was embedded into the tuition because many students forgot to opt out at the beginning of the semester and then complained about paying it when their bursar bills arrived, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said.
A similar proposal to impose an activities fee in 1997 was shot down by student opposition. Last year, the YCC approved a resolution advocating a $30 fee to create a fund that would have been split between the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, the YCC and club sports, but the recommendation was not acted upon.
Given the rocky history of the fee, Trachtenberg said she is ambivalent about its reinstatement.
“I can understand the YCC’s wish to have more events for the student body, and that’s great,” Trachtenberg said. “On the other hand, there are a lot of students at Yale who probably aren’t interested in these kinds of events.”
If implemented, the fee would not be unique in the Ivy League. Harvard and Princeton currently have fees in place and, at Harvard, the fees helped bring Bob Dylan to campus after this year’s Game. Cedar said that while some could argue that Yalies are unlikely to pay a fee that is not mandatory, he pointed out that a majority of Harvard’s undergraduates choose not to opt out of its fee.
“You can oppose the idea of paying this, but there’s no reason to oppose implementing it because it’s optional,” Cedar said.
The proposed fee would enable the YCC to strengthen the Yale community as a whole, Cedar said.
“You have a community that’s becoming increasingly insular and centralized around residential college life,” he said. “Sources for funding have gone away for things that don’t pertain to a particular college.”
If Yale’s administration decides to implement the fee, it would likely use other schools as models and would distribute funds to activities and organizations based on student input, Salovey said.