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SA debates yearly fee increase

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By Stefan Lembo-Stolba

4/19/2016

Following a contentious debate during Wednesday’s Student Association meeting, the University at Albany’s SA postponed a decision on a last-minute resolution that, if passed, would increase the Student Activity Fee for the upcoming academic years.

The resolution outlined a plan to increase the student activity fee by $17 a semester by fall of 2018.

Sponsored by Sen. Jarrett Altilio, and Sen. Austin Ostro, the Student Activity Fee Adjustment Act of 2016, or S.1516-162R, would raise the student fee by $6 in 2016-2017, to $106 a semester.

In 2017-2018 the fee would be increased to $112 a semester, and the following 2018-2019 year would climb to $117 a semester. The fee was hiked to its current $100, in the fall of 2013.

The increases will theoretically fill vital gaps in the SA budget and are in the best interests of students, said the senators.

“Raising the fee by $6 will increase the student experience, and student quality of life,” Ostro said.

The initial $6 increase would amount to an estimated $150,000 in extra revenue collected by the SA each academic year. According to the resolution, this revenue would be split, allotting $15,000 to Dippikill for long-term projects, $33,750 to SA programming, and $101,250 to be put in the Senate Appropriations line to be given back to student groups.

The increase received harsh criticism after the senators hastily proposed the resolution, which according to Comptroller Robert Warshauer, was conceived that Saturday. Its introduction opened the floor for SA members to question their colleagues’ transparency in planning for the proposed changes.

SA Vice President Kevin Murphy accused the sponsors of holding “closed door meetings” that brought about the resolution.

“This is not closed door,” Warshauer responded. “This is a public meeting.”

The apprehensions over the bill sponsors’ transparency reverberated among several senators, including Sen. Beny Poy who said, “The people in this room were elected on the basis of transparency.”

Sen. Subha Tasnim, who agreed with Poy, said, “The students have a right to know about this before a decision is made.”

In what was expected to be a civil proceeding, tension grew as Murphy asked whether student input was collected in the proposal to increase the fees. Before Warshauer was able to respond, Murphy called out “The answer is no.”

Under SUNY guidelines the maximum Student Activity Fee is set by the Chancellor, and is currently capped at $250 an academic year, or $125 a semester.

Amid the overwhelming concern over the resolution, SA agreed to table the issue, planning to return to it during its meeting on April 27.

 

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