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Student Life Fee May be Increased

Resolution Addresses Problems With Fee, Benefits of Greater Funding

By Nick Bushak

The Student Life Fee could increase from the current $100 per term to an as yet undecided amount in the next year because of inflation and a more active student body, according to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. As of yet, no final decision has been made as to whether an increase will be necessary. Such an increase would be the first in the history of the Fee.

The Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council passed a joint resolution last week, listing five issues that must be addressed before the Student Life Fee is changed. Separately, the UA Senate also proposed that the fee be divided into separate student activities and facilities fees.

The UA and GSC joint resolution asserted that “the structure of the [Student Life] Fee is unclear” and that “students do not currently have effective control over the Fee.” Additionally, the resolution states the problem that graduate students often have to pay the fee from their post-tax earnings.

The five issues included in the UA and GSC joint resolution that “must be addressed” before any changes are made, according to the resolution, deal with the ability of students to control the level of the fee, tax implications for graduate students, financial aid implications for undergraduate students, transparency of the fee disbursement structure, and whether student activity funding should be paired with athletics funding.

Benedict added that the increased fee would be considered in setting financial aid levels so needy students would have all or some of the fee covered.

UA President Andrew T. Lukmann ’07 said that he and GSC President Eric G. Weese G, authors of the resolution, both realized “there were a number of things that needed to be dealt with before we felt comfortable endorsing an increase.”

The UA Senate proposal stated that the fee should be separated into a Student Activities Fee, regulated by the UA and GSC for funding of student activities and social events, and a Facilities Fee, set by the Dean of Student Life for funding operations for the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation.

Though how much of the Fee goes toward student activities and how much goes toward facilities is still a source of debate since the budget is not clearly divided, the general consensus is that greater than the majority goes toward facilities, Lukmann said.

Portions of the Student Life Fee go to the Student Activities Office, the Graduate Students Office, and DAPER. About $400,000 of the fee goes to the Student Activites Office. According to Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert, $225,000 is allocated to the Graduate Students Office. The rest is allocated to DAPER, Benedict said.

Since the Student Life Fee was instated four years ago, “inflation has eroded the buying power of the fee monies” and “more student groups and organizations are seeking more funds to support their activities and efforts,” Benedict said. While Benedict considers this “good news” as an indicator of student involvement, it does mean that current Student Life funds are insufficient.

Stephen D. Immerman, the interim head of DAPER, agreed, adding that “we’ve seen more demand and more student involvement over the past four years.”

No final decision has been made regarding an increase to the Student Life Fee. The Dean of Student Life’s office is still awaiting data from the UA, the GSC, the Association for Student Activities, and DAPER.

According to Weese, one common complaint graduate students have about the Student Life Fee is that they often pay MIT with their taxed stipend money. Benedict says he is aware of this issue and is considering options.

The Student Life Fee was originally instated four years ago, as part of a tuition increase for the 2002-2003 school year.