Something to think about: the Student Activity Fee
By Jacob Spiegel
March 31, 2015
The Student Activity Fee is now voluntary due to a recent Student Association vote. The Student Activity Fee is a $100 charge to students that the Student Association collects to fund events at the university like Parkfest, student organizations, and the World Within Reach Speaker Series, that featured acts like Bill Nye and Common.
The vote proposed to make the fee voluntary instead of mandatory. The outcome was 896 votes to and 852 with the majority in favor of the voluntary fee. There were 146 abstentions.
Students probably chose the voluntary option because they “never saw the money they were spending” or “it just doesn’t apply” to them. The major problem is that the fee is called the Student Activity Fee, to encourage students to take action, and many students do not.
The fact remains that this vote shows the lack of student action on campus. The students and the administration of the university are to blame. Many students do not know of any club that they would like to be a part of and lack the will to start a club that interests them. Meanwhile, the school does not do much to encourage students to get involved.
When a student goes to college their parents tell them to “get involved, that’s how you can find people similar to you.” Common interests are what bring people together and in the age of “I,” people could use more face-to-face interaction. In terms of a student’s future in the professional world, it is hard to gain experience to make you “job-ready” and clubs are one of the best ways to do that. Student groups like Five Quad, Middle Earth and the Albany Student Television station, all provide valuable professional experience for students and prepares them for the world ahead.
One student said, “I met almost everyone in my friend group through the clubs I’ve joined. Sure not everyone is my best friend, but they are my friends.”
For students that are not interested in preparing themselves for a professional career, the use of clubs can entertain them and help them make friends. The Student Association is very helpful when it comes to making clubs, just as long as it is run in an efficient manner, they will allow it. Students need to realize they can pick any one of their hobbies, find five other people with that hobby, start a club and put up a poster. Most likely there are people on campus who are also interested in that hobby and don’t know anyone else that is. This creates their chance to find new people. Clubs are an underappreciated part of college life here at the University at Albany.
Lastly, something should be said about the way the voting is conducted at this school. The undergraduate enrollment was reported at 12,822 students, and only 1,894 people voted in the most recent election. Less than 15 percent of the student body voted, which should be seen as an immediate problem that needs addressing.
This election should not be counted because it realistically doesn’t show the full opinions of the student body. If a change like this is allowed to come to fruition without a greater portion of the student body voting on it, then it will be met with a stronger opposition than it has now. When a town holds its elections, it has the election in person.
The Student Association needs to set up tables outside of the campus center where students could simply swipe their SUNY IDs and then vote on an iPad. Voting numbers would augment substantially.
There needs to be an increase of student action and the Student Activity Fee is good place to start. It had been decided that there is a problem with the fee, specifically how it is used. Maybe instead of getting rid of the fee altogether, which is covering up the issue, students and the Student Association can work together to fix the problem. Remember in the words of the rock band Cinderella “You don’t know what you got, till it’s gone.”