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UAC Debates Shift in Control of Activity Fee

By Eva Moy
Associate News Editor

A proposal to shift control of the student activities fee from the administration to the UA was the focus of debate at Wednesday's Undergraduate Association Council meeting.

The proposal suggests that students "take control ... out of the hands of the administrators" on issues such as allocation of funds to student activities and payment for athletic cards, said UA Vice President J. Paul Kirby '92, who co-sponsored the bill with UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93.

"As costs go up and tuition goes up, it doesn't necessarily mean that money for student activities will go up," said Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith. He added that the proposalwould "get [student activity funds] out of the competition" with other Institute funding requests. Students would have to be "willing to tax [themselves]," he said.

Kirby emphasized that this new system would have a "zero-sum gain," meaning that students would not have to pay more money than they presently do. The UA will try to convince administrators to lower tuition by the amount that students would pay into student services, creating no net gain or loss in tuition costs, Kirby said.

The activity charge, which is currently incorporated into tuition charges, would be added to the students' bill in a manner similar to the way a house tax is added, he said.

Students to vote in referendum

Under the proposal, the UA Finance Board would continue to allocate money to student activities as it currently does. The allocations, however, will be voted upon by a student referendum, said Kirby.

The ballots would be multiple choice, and, if students agree, the median response for each category would be used to determine the total amount to be billed, he said.

Some dollar amounts suggested at the UAC meeting were $17 for student services in general (the current amount), $7 for the Course Evaluation Guide, $30 for A Safe Ride, and $20 for an athletic card.

UA more `in touch'

Kirby said that the administration "makes decisions contrary to the interests of the student body." The people who make these allocation decisions may be "out of touch with what students' priorities are," he added. He would like a chance to give the campus a choice on activity funding.

Some activities are under-funded compared to other campuses or other MIT activities, Kirby said. He would like to help fund living group-based activities which sponsor or contribute to on-campus events, he said.

"We surveyed 19 colleges that MIT likes to compare itself with, and MIT ranked 17th" in the amount of money per person that the administration allows students to allocate to student groups, a UA study states.

"I don't see where the student control is" if every student is required to pay for these services if voted upon, said David J. Kessler '94.

It is "a dangerous argument" to pay only for the services that are used, said David W. Hogg '92. "I think it's much better for there to be a pool of resources," he said.

Kathleen Mahoney '92 thought that the general student body was relatively uneducated about financial issues. She said she would rather have FinBoard choose for the students.

Part of the plan is to provide every undergraduate with access to athletic facilities without having to deal with the current athletic card system. Approximately 70 percent of undergraduates have purchased an athletic card this year and about 90 percent use athletic facilities outside of the physical education classes, Kirby said.

This plan would prevent the unfairness that arises from students borrowing other students' cards, thereby avoiding paying for those services, Kirby added. Additionally, he said the plan would eliminate the bureaucracy of having to check if a student had an athletic card and the office personnel needed to process such information.

The athletic department is "giving serious consideration" to this plan, Kirby said. "This would give them the opportunity" not to raise the price of an athletic card, or even to lower the price, because the costs would be spread over all undergraduates, and some of the administrative costs would also be eliminated, he added.

Students would not have to pay for athletic cards out of their own pockets, Kirby said. The cost could be incorporated as part of the financial aid package, he added.