SA TRANSPARENCY ON FEE RAISE HIT ‘LEFT’ AND ‘RIGHT’ BY POLITICAL ORGS
The recent student activity fee hike has created new rifts between the Student Association and top campus political party chapters.
Rattled by the decision, College Democrats issued a statement hours after the vote. Their statement was attached to a post from Tiana Bosnjak, a recent outspoken critic of senate transparency.
“It’s important to be aware of what your student government is doing Democracy is strongest when all our voices are heard,” they stated. “And tonight our student government showed us that they have no interest in listening to the student body. Transparency matters.”
Young Americans for Liberty echoed a similar position minutes following College Democrats. “The importance of this to our university cannot be over-stressed,” they stated. “Our Student Activity Fee was raised without ANY students being informed. Young Americans for Liberty stands firmly against this fee increase. Now is the time to organize our opposition.”
Both statements were drafted early morning by SA members with high posts in university political chapters: Charlotte Moller, president of College Democrats and board of finance member; and Conner Dunleavy, vice president of Young Americans for Liberty and long-standing senator-at-large.
Mirroring the statement, Moller questioned transparency measures prior to the decision. Student input in the decision, she said, was no different from last year when senators blasted a fee increase proposal for being put together in “private.”
Her dissonance with senate decisions isn’t new. In past weeks, Moller expressed dissent towards senate transparency during the impeachment trial vote of Julia Alford, senator-at-large, less than a month back.
Moller previously emphasized that she had not been against the fee, just lack of transparency.
“The reason why the bill was voted down last year was for lacking transparency and they pledged to hold town halls, email students, and get feedback but none of that ever happened this year,” Moller said.
On the other hand, Dunleavy has been largely against the fee increase. Had the increase been more transparent, Young Americans for Liberty would still condemn the overall proposal, he said. Following libertarian values, the group denounces all fee increases.
Acting as chair at the time of the vote, Dunleavy did not speak out against the bill during debate.
The fee increase also attracted attention from senate outsiders such as Jeffery Masa, president of College Republicans. Like College Democrats and Young Americans for Liberty, College Republicans attacked senate leadership for lacking student input.
“By raising the activity fee without consulting students, they show a blatant disregard for the opinion of the student body,” College Republicans said in a statement on Wednesday. “These actions show minimal transparency on behalf of senate. While the fee increase may have been necessary, we as students deserved to have a say in this decision.”
The only political party-oriented group on campus to not make a public stance against the increase was the UAlbany Green Party Society. Similar to Young Americans for Liberty, the group stands largely against fee increases.
The previous referendum re-vote cast by the senate nearly two years ago, Bryan Jimenez, president of the Green Party Society, called an act of senate overreach.
Under senate guidelines, the vote had to be cast again because it was not congruent with SUNY policy. At the time, the fee was waived 44 votes apart.
“We, as students already pay enough for meal plans, on-campus food, and housing than we really should be,” Jimenez said. “Why make life any harder for ourselves? We need an open and fair process for making a decision that affects the entire student body.”
For most of last decade, the fee only went up $5. Over the last five years, however, the rate has tripled. The last major leap was in the late 1990s when the fee went up $16.
This fall’s increase was pushed forward to aid a growing number of student groups. Between this year and last year, the number of student groups submitting budget packets has risen from 88 to 125. Many student groups had proposed budget increases rejected due to limited funds.
Before amended, a bulk of the original bill went to Parkfest, an SA sponsored concert which was under fire last year for running short on tickets.
Overall, Jarrett Altilio, senate chair and co-sponsor, stands by the increase; however, he believes the bill would’ve gathered more support had it been pushed earlier in the semester with greater transparency measures.
Next semester, Altilio, with seven student group presidents, four other SA leaders, and three senators, will be part of a student activity fee task force aimed to raise awareness for the fee.
“I’m not entirely surprised by the backlash because when whenever you ask anyone for more money for anything — there’s going to be ‘oh, whoa. Why?'” he said. “And I think we could’ve done a better job and I think in the future we can do a better job certainly for marketing next semester so people do understand not just why we’re increasing [the fee], but why it’s there.”