Two years from now, Yale may not have a Spring Fling. Forget disagreements over the band; without redress, Spring Fling will meet the same fate of our now-defunct Fall Show, Inferno and Exotic Erotic. Insufficient funding closed down the annual Fall Show and precluded any genuine replacements for Inferno and Exotic Erotic. This same lack of funding now threatens to eliminate the tradition of Spring Fling. To keep Yale-wide traditions alive, we students must act to supplement the funding allocated to student activities.
All Yale undergraduates will vote this Tuesday through Thursday on a student activities fee of $50 that will supplement University funds allocated to college-wide events, undergraduate organizations and club sports. Under the administration and Yale College Council’s proposal, any student who wishes to opt out of the fee can, and no student on financial aid will pay. Similar fees exist at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, UPenn and Dartmouth — all the other Ivies. At these peer institutions, the average fee is $200. At $50, our activities fee would be $150 less than the average and the lowest of all our peer institutions.
With a $60 activities fee, Harvard last spring hosted Busta Rhymes and this fall brought in Bob Dylan. With a $60 activities fee, Princeton also sponsored two concerts, each with big names. This year, Yale will only hold one concert, and even this show required supplemental funds from the administration. To continue to top our rivals in campus life, we must empower those who plan our college-wide social events with budgets more like those at Harvard and Princeton.
A $50 student activities fee at Yale could net over $215,000 in additional funds for such college-wide events and would supplement the insufficient budgets of undergraduate organizations and club sports. With $215,000, we could invite bigger Spring Fling bands to campus and reinstate the sold-out Fall Show of two years ago featuring Jimmy Fallon. With $215,000, we could sponsor an increasing number of social and community events, like this past weekend’s very successful Winter Arts Festival. And with $215,000, we could resuscitate our markedly underfunded undergraduate organizations and club sports.
As last year’s chair of the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee (UOFC), I can speak to how an activities fee would revive organizational life at Yale. The UOFC has seen its applications for funding rise more than threefold since the 2000-2001 school year. In just one semester last year, 48 organizations new to the UOFC asked for funding. As a result, the UOFC has had to turn down numerous requests for event funding and curtail grants for speakers, performances and conferences. Even with last year’s first increase in five years, the UOFC’s budget pales in comparison to Harvard’s organizational budget: $105,000 to their $180,000. With the fee, the UOFC’s budget would rise by $30,000 to 40,000, partially closing that gap.
As captain of the club ice hockey team, I can also relate to the activities fee’s benefits to club sports. Universally recognized as woefully inadequate, the club sports budget makes our club sports suffer even more than our organizations. The budget hasn’t budged for at least the past five years and will likely remain the same for at least the next five years, despite a continually growing number of clubs. Uniforms, tourney fees and equipment that our opponents take for granted have run our member fees skyward and — for some clubs — our membership into the ground. The disparity between our average club sports grant of $475, Dartmouth’s $1,400 and Columbia’s $7,500 is quite striking. Proceeds from the activities fee would triple the current club sports budget.
Opponents of the activities fee would prefer that only the students who actively participate in campus life should pay. They argue that we should allow individual students to target their money to those organizations in which they participate. Remember, however, that the proposed fee is optional. If they so desire, students can opt out of the fee at the start of every school year and target their money as they’d like.
The students who recognize that everyone at Yale “participates” in campus life will opt for the fee. Each and every student benefits at least indirectly from campus-wide events, organizations and club sports — by hearing Third Eye Blind at the Spring Fling, reading The New York Times thanks to the lobbying efforts of the YCC, watching a free fire-juggling show by the Yale Anti-Gravity Society and witnessing the club ice hockey team beat Wesleyan 11-3. Each student lives in an atmosphere rich with student performances and publications, regardless of whether she organizes the performance or writes for the publication.
The choice is yours: Will you allow Yale’s student life to continually degenerate, or will you act to rescue Spring Fling, reinstitute the Fall Show and resuscitate our organizations and club sports? If you prefer the latter, the Harvard Crimson will continue to write articles praising our social life and bashing their own, like they did before last year’s Harvard-Yale Game. If you prefer the former, the Yale Daily News may end up writing a similar article in a couple of years.
Matt Harsha-Strong is a junior in Trumbull College. A former Yale College Council officer, he initially proposed the activities fee last spring.