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LETTER

Student Life Fee Should be Prorated

Beginning this fall, students are being charged a $100 Student Life Fee every semester. In principle, I don’t object to the charging of such a fee, because it is common practice at many colleges and universities. As an undergraduate, I was required to pay a similar fee, which was used to fund student activities and to bring entertainment to campus. However, according to the the press releases concerning the Student Life Fee, the largest portion is earmarked to cover operating costs associated with the new fitness center. The new athletics complex is a considerable improvement in the facilities available over the past few years, and probably worth some additional expense to students.

I had to schedule my thesis defense for late September, which necessitated registering for the fall semester, though I left MIT on Oct. 4, about two weeks after the opening of the new athletics complex. Upon inquiring about the many charges on my student bill, I found that although the Institute prorates most fees, including tuition, medical insurance, and parking, no such provision had been made for the Student Life Fee.

I explained my situation to the Dean for Graduate Students, Isaac Colbert, the MIT official empowered to make decisions regarding this fee for graduate students, and suggested that the fee should either be waived, considering I had only been able to access the fitness center for a very short time, or prorated like other fees. I was told the fee could not be waived, and furthermore that graduate student stipends had been increased in order to cover this new fee. In addition, Dean Colbert explained that although the fitness center was indeed the largest reason for the fee, the Student Life Fee also would provide additional services to improve student life. I was displeased with the first part of this explanation because stipends are only paid up until the date a student leaves the institute, and I could therefore not collect all the money designated to offset the fee.

I requested an explanation about how the Student Life Fee funds had been used prior to the opening of the athletics facility to improve student life, pointing out that anyone who left the Institute would be unable to benefit from any future expenditure. In response, Dean Colbert provided no explanation, but appealed to my altruistic nature, stating, “these funds are being used for worthy purposes, so I hope that you will not remain terribly upset about the charge.”

In addition to Dean Colbert, I presented my case to both Dean Benedict and Chancellor Clay, but to no avail. I credit Dean Benedict for meeting me personally and taking my case to Dean Colbert and other MIT officials for consideration; however, I remain unhappy with the results. Probably only a limited number of students will be faced with this situation in the future, but for the few who are, I think the situation will be quite frustrating. This experience has been a very negative one, and has left a bad final impression on me about how some MIT officials seem to disregard students. I am considering making the Student Life Fee I paid to be my first, last and only charitable donation to MIT.


Shawn Burdette PhD ’02