To the Editor:
In “Fee vote: democracy in action it wasn’t” (2/1), Jeffrey Weng makes several factual errors and false accusations. First, Weng claims the YCC expects 40 percent of Yale undergraduates to pay the fee, totaling $107,500. Both the editors of the News and Weng should have caught this glaring factual error. Only one week ago, the News ran a front page headline, “Activities Fee could net 215k,” based on our estimation that 80 percent of undergraduates would pay. Weng later “wonder[s] where that magical number of 40 percent” comes from. In fact, the 80 percent estimate comes from other schools with opt-out activities fees, like Harvard, where the participation rate is over 80 percent. This is a fact that has been widely publicized, including within the pages of the News.
Next, Weng claims that it was unethical for the YCC to actively support the fee and that we stifled any criticism. As advocates for improving student life, the YCC unanimously believed an activities fee would be good for Yale. Thus, it is not surprising that we were open proponents of the fee. While our Web site publicized our point of view, it also contained links to all articles and op-eds about the fee, including negative ones, published in the past months. Additionally, much of the momentum for the vote was provided by non-YCC students who believed the fee would improve their lives at Yale. Perhaps the nearly uniform public support and positive coverage in the News that Weng sees as an affront to democracy was not a function of YCC’s attempt to rig an election, but of the fact that the activities fee is a good idea long overdue.
Weng alleges that there would be no student control over these funds and that students would be forced to pay for activities in which they do not participate. The point of a student activities fee is to gain more control for students. Whereas increases in tuition targeted at student life are subject to the whims of University administrators, these new funds are guaranteed to go entirely to student activities. Also, students will have a large role in deciding the allocation of funds, while we currently have little say in University appropriations for student life. Additionally, it is incorrect to believe that students are not already paying for activities in which they don’t participate. Your tuition currently goes to fund the myriad opportunities available to Yale students. Unless you participate in every club at Yale, your money is, by definition, going to support other students.
Weng’s belief that “students [should] fund the activities in which they actually participate,” is antithetical to Yale’s most basic values. This idea amounts to a student body segregated along economic lines, as only those who can pay are able to participate in the organizations they choose. We want Yalies to become active in our community because they want to, not because they can afford to.
Facing a difficult task of convincing students to pay their own money to improve life at Yale, the YCC advocated for the activities fee as a way to alleviate the current inadequacies of funding for student activities. A student activities fee certainly has issues, but the YCC and 78 percent of the voters in last week’s referendum believe that it is a worthwhile experiment in making student life better.
Andrew Cedar ’06
Feb. 1, 2005
The writer is the president of the Yale College Council.