Senators continue activity fee debate
Associate News Editor
For the third consecutive week, debate at the Student Senate's Wednesday meeting centered on whether senators should recommend raising the student activity fee which all Notre Dame undergraduates pay.
Amy O'Connor, whom the senate recently confirmed as club coordinator of the Club Coordination Council, spoke on behalf of campus organizations that would stand to benefit from increased funding.
"Recently, we've seen an increase in demand while our resources have remained static," said O'Connor. "Not all clubs need more funding, but the majority do."
The money collected through the student activity fee goes to fund a variety of campus organizations, including undergraduate clubs, the Student Union Board and the office of the student body president.
Last week, the senate rejected, by a vote of 14 to 13, a resolution calling for the University to increase the student activity fee from $65 to $75. The resolution also called for $5 increases every other year following the initial increase.
Since the senate rejected the resolution, the body has formed a committee to draft an alternative resolution that would increase the fee but perhaps would not include the provision involving the $5 increases. The committee consists of several senators, as well as O'Connor, Student Activities director Brian Coughlin and student body vice president Brian Moscona.
O'Connor described several organizations as examples of groups that would benefit from increased funding.
The Architecture Club, for instance, had to take on the responsibility and expense of organizing a career fair when the School of Architecture stopped holding one, O'Connor told the senate.
Other academic clubs, such as the Physics Club, frequently use their funds to purchase pizza — an activity several senators questioned at previous senate meetings — to attract members, according to O'Connor. Students are originally drawn to a club meeting for the free food, but then stay in the club when they discover what it is like.
Another club O'Connor mentioned was Best Buddies, which brought actor Chris Burke to campus two years ago and again tonight. Burke drew a significant crowd the last time he was here, but Best Buddies and other clubs do not have enough money to bring such well-known speakers to campus more often.
"[With more money] they could bring speakers that everyone wants to go see, not just someone only a few people have heard of," O'Connor said.
She added that many clubs use all their financial resources to plan one major event that benefits the whole campus, but leaves the club without money for other activities, such as community service in South Bend.
"The club loses on an interpersonal level, and it can't go do service," O'Connor said.
While she conceded that clubs can hold fundraisers, it would be impossible for many organizations to raise all the money they need on their own.
"Fundraising can only cover so much," said O'Connor.
The committee set up to consider the example hopes to have a resolution ready for the senate to consider at its next meeting on Feb. 27.
"I'll be very disappointed in the senate if we don't pass
this eventually," said Morrissey senator Padraic McDermott. "Five years down the line, when SUB is crumbling and they can't bring any
speakers all year, they're going to look back at our senate. We deserve the discredit."
However, two students who came to the meeting voiced concern over raising the student activity fee.
"I'm not completely opposed to raising the fee," said freshman Cole Barker. "I think it's ridiculous that we would raise the student activity fee so people can go get free pizza at the Physics Club."
"If an academic club has trouble attracting members maybe they shouldn't be a club anymore," said junior Chris Zimmerman.
However, the office of the president's representative to the Financial Management Board Audra Hagan said that it was important to maintain clubs, both for incoming freshmen to enjoy and for the overall benefit organizations have on the campus community.
"There is an intrinsic value to every club and organization on campus," said Hagan, who originally proposed the resolution.
Zimmerman also pointed out that only 75 percent of students belong to a club, and therefore he said clubs should have to pay more themselves so that the other 25 percent of the student body does not have to pay a higher activity fee.
"The majority of that [other] 25 percent still enjoys that money," said Jesse Flores, the senator from Carroll. Flores pointed out that student activity fee money also goes to SUB movies and to help dorms purchase items such as DVD players.
In addition, Zimmerman questioned the fact that student groups must pay to use certain campus facilities.
"It's our facility. It's our University. We paid for it from the beginning," he said.
In other senate news:
u The senate unanimously approved a letter from Cavanaugh senator Lindsay Zika and the senate's gender relations committee to Sister Mary Louise Gude, assistant vice president of student affairs.
The letter called for improving the University's Women's Resource Center, currently located on the third floor of LaFortune. Specifically, the letter requested that the University hire a full-time staff member for the center, improve the quality of information available at the center and move the center to the Counseling Center.
As she submitted the letter to the senate, Zika told senators that the WRC could become a much more valuable resource for students.
"All they can give you is information, and even that's outdated," she said.
However, student body president Brooke Norton questioned Zika about why the best location for the WRC would be the counseling center.
"People don't think, "Oh, I have a woman's problem. Let's go to the third floor of LaFortune,'" said Zika. "We want to get it moved to the counseling center so it's closer to where the students are, and it's a place they'd probably feel more comfortable going to."
The WRC often refers students to the counseling center anyway, added Pangborn senator Mary Mullen, who chairs the gender relations committee.
u The senate unanimously approved four students for SUB positions: Stephen Christ as board manager, Lauren Fowler as director of programming, Andrew Lam as chief controller and Connie Quinlan as director of operations.
All News Stories for Thursday, February 21, 2002