Last Thursday, the SUNY Chancellor's Task Force on the Student Activitiy Fee and chief administrators from SUNY colleges and universities gathered in Albany to consider changes in regulating the mandatory student activity fee.
Among the recommendations were: to hold a referendum on whether the fee would remain mandatory every two years instead of the current requirement of every four, remove the minimum voter turnout necessary to validate the results, and allow money to be allocated to scholarships and grants, according to NYSSA Vice President George Pape, also one of UB's three delegates.
Since the fee was established 20 years ago, no changes have been made to its administration or approval process. According to Student Association President Christian Oliver, reviewing the fee is necessary since student governments formerly only dealt with "a couple hundred dollars" and are now dealing with "a couple million dollars."
The task force, established by SUNY Chancellor Robert King, consists of four subcommittees: research, policy and procedure, accountability and referenda and communications. Each committee was responsible for researching its specific area and making recommendations to King and the SUNY Board of Trustees.
"It was very important for students to have a very powerful voice at these meetings," said Pape, who is co-chairman of the research subcommittee.
Oliver, who attended the meeting as a non-voting participant, opposes the recommendation to increase the frequency of the fee referendum vote from four years to two, saying it would "negatively" affect student governments.
"Instead of SA talking to students about what services it has to offer, it will have to spend its time and money educating students on why the fee is necessary and important," he said.
Under SUNY Board of Trustees guidelines, "each state-operated campus shall determine by referendum whether student activity programs shall be supported either by voluntary or mandatory student fees."
At UB, the fees fund clubs and organizations affiliated with SA and campus mainstays such as the Distinguished Speakers' Series, Spring and Fall fests and UUAB films.
Oliver described the two-year referendum as "utterly unnecessary," noting that never in SUNY's history have students voted to make the activity voluntary.
Both Pape and Oliver were pleased with the student participants' role in the meeting.
"We were able to tie in administrators and trustees with anything valid to student rights," said Pape.
The students' greatest challenge, said Oliver, was being taken seriously.
"We were able to prove of ourselves that we knew what we were talking about and that we're not just kids," said Oliver.
King and the Board of Trustees will review the recommendations and decide on a course of action. Pape said it is not yet known when a vote will be held.