About 37 percent of Yale’s undergraduate student body has opted out of the optional $50 student activities fee, a surprising figure given that 78 percent of student voters supported it in a referendum last spring.
At least 1,958 students opted out by the Sept. 15 deadline, leaving about $164,000 in fee revenue — about 23.7 percent shy of the $215,000 that the YCC predicted last spring the fee would generate. Yale had an optional fee years ago but folded it into student tuition. Last spring, the fee was reinstituted as an optional charge, a YCC initiative to generate additional revenue for student activities.
The statistics did not dampen YCC officers’ hopes for student activities this year.
“I think it’s a strong endorsement of the YCC this year,” YCC Treasurer Emery Choi ’07 said.
Despite not meeting expectations set out by the council last year, YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said he was pleased with the amount of revenue generated by the fee.
“I’m really excited about how many students chose to support the activities fee, especially in its first year,” Syverud said.
Yale, with 37 percent of students opting out of the fee, stands in contrast to Harvard, where 16 percent of its student body opted out of a $60 optional activities fee last year.
Many students waited until the final days before the deadline last week to opt out of the fee, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said. Trachtenberg said she received a number of e-mails from students who said they tried to opt out of the fee after midnight on Sept. 15 and were unable to log onto the Student Information Services Web site. She then instructed Student Financial Services to allow these students to opt out anyway.
Over the last few weeks, two seniors identifying themselves as part of a group they called “Students for Responsible Student Governance” led a campaign to promote opting out of the fee. One of these students, Max Sklar ’06, claimed some students were unable to waive the fee electronically in the days before the deadline.
But Trachtenberg said those complaints are unfounded. YCC Vice President Marissa Brittenham ’07 said she has not heard of anyone complaining that they were unable to opt out.
“According to the dean’s office it was up until the last minute,” Brittenham said. “We didn’t get any e-mails on YaleStation or anything like that.”
Ernst Huff, associate vice president for student financial and administrative services, said the process of collecting the fee and allowing students to opt out went “smoothly.” He pointed to the large number of students who were able to opt out as evidence of the ease of the process.
“I’m not familiar with any complaints at all,” Huff said. “We tried to make it as straightforward as possible.”
Trachtenberg said she and other administration officials will meet with YCC officers this Friday to discuss how the revenue from the new fee will be distributed.
Syverud said the council wants to stay as close as possible to the guidelines laid out last spring when the fee was first proposed. These guidelines, drawn up by last year’s YCC executive board, stipulated that 50 percent of the revenue be allocated to the YCC for campus-wide events such as the Spring Fling and Fall Show, 20 percent to club sports teams, 15 percent to the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee to distribute to student clubs, and 15 percent to a new intercollegiate initiative whereby students from different colleges can collectively organize campus events and parties.
Once the YCC and the administration finalize the guidelines, Syverud said the council will send an e-mail informing the student body of exactly how the student activities fee’s revenue will be spent.
“In the past the YCC has not been great about publicizing its budget,” he said. “We want to be clear about our budget in general.”