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Sunday, May 19, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The Student Association is a disaster, but the student activity fee isn’t

I will vote “mandatory” not because SA told me to, but for the clubs who would not survive without it

Last semester, I voted to make the student activity fee voluntary.

And, putting aside the irony of having to specify that I voted “voluntary” last semester, I had every intention of doing so again in Wednesday’s identical referendum.

But, despite the Student Association’s fear mongering leading me to want to vote “voluntary” again this week, I changed my mind yesterday. I will vote “mandatory” on the student activity fee, even though I don’t want to give the disastrous and incompetent Student Association any more of my money. 

My change in heart — after all, students voted to make the fee “voluntary” last September by a nine-point margin — came during a conversation with our assistant news editor, Brendan Kelly.

During our Monday editorial meeting, Brendan, an active participant in the Outdoor Adventure Club, which relies on the SA for a majority of its funding, spoke about how this fee affects what his club is able to do.

“My club wouldn’t exist without the student activity fee,” he said.

And Brendan is absolutely correct: no matter what gripes I may have with the SA e-board and SA as an organization, SA clubs are the lifeblood of the UB student experience. Students — especially freshmen — need the benefits these clubs offer. And clubs desperately need student funding to survive.

We’ve written so much this semester about student mental health, and the need students have for connection, especially during such an isolating time. UB’s clubs and organizations — and there are more than 160 of them that receive funding, according to the SA website — are one of the few avenues for students to connect with each other on such a large campus.

As the editor-in-chief of a student organization that does not receive SA funding, and as someone who has never been particularly impressed by the free events SA puts on, I had every intention of saving future UB students $109 when I went to the virtual polls this week. 

But, here I am.

About to vote “mandatory” on the fee, despite the SA’s annoying marketing campaign in favor of it.

Advertisements for the referendum can be found plastered across Instagram, the SA website and even the entrance to the Student Union. On posters, large X’s cover things like Spring Fest and the Comedy Series on dark backgrounds, to depict life without SA. 

Meanwhile, cheery posters with bright colors and large check marks depict life with SA: clubs, tutoring, activities and all. 

Our inboxes have been flooded with emails from SA telling us to vote “mandatory,” claiming a voluntary student activity fee would prevent SA from holding free events, funding clubs, offering free services and advocating for students. 

SA has taken a page out of the manipulators’ handbook when developing these ads. These dark colors and massive X’s are fear mongering tactics meant to scare students into voting “mandatory.”

But the organization itself has barely merited having our money.

If you check your HUB Student Center, you’ll see you were charged a fee for the fall and spring semesters, even though SA didn’t throw us a COVID-19 friendly Fall Fest or run a Zoom Comedy Series. 

So, like many of you, I planned to vote “voluntary.”

But then I thought about Brendan, and my own experience with extracurriculars and clubs at UB.

The Spectrum is where I made my first true friends in college; had we been dependent on the fee, we would have been gutted by a “voluntary” decision.

Clubs bring students together. I am confident that many of us wouldn’t have built the friendships we will carry with us into adulthood, had it not been for our student activity fee.

And I don’t want to take that away from future students.

So I will be voting “mandatory” in Wednesday’s referendum. 

Decidedly not because SA told me to, but for the future Bulls who will find their friends at trips to NorthTown with the Ice Skating Club or go apple picking with the UB Advocates for Girl’s Education.

I’m doing it for the future Bulls who deserve social connection, especially at a time when they need it the most.

CORRECTION: A pervious version of the column claimed there are "more than 600" clubs recognized by SA. It has been corrected to "more than 160 that receive funding."

Reilly Mullen is the editor in chief and can be reached at 

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Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief at The Spectrum. She is a senior majoring in political science with a journalism certificate. She enjoys Dunkin’ iced lattes and Scrabble. A former web, features, news and managing editor, she is a columnist at heart but has covered everything from UB Football to breaking news. 



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