Reforms proposed to student fee process

Some say streamlined; others say unnecessaryStudent government leaders debated Wednesday over whether proposed changes to the student fee process streamline the procedure or unnecessarily strip power from elected officials.Currently, CSU students have the power to suggest to the Student Fee Review Board

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
International Money Pile in Cash and Coins (Photo credit: epSos.de)

–– an arm of the Associated Students of CSU –– that fees be increased to fund the creation of particular programs. After SFRB reviews the proposals throughout the academic year, they bundle them up into a “Long Bill” for the Senate’s review in the spring. Senators can pass, fail, or amend the bill to their liking.

In May 2011, for example, then-ASCSU Vice President Jennifer Babos won the approval of both student groups for a $4 fee increase –– equaling about $189,600 a year –– to increase awareness campaigns and educational programming about interpersonal violence.

The two groups’ recommendations weigh heavily on how CSU President Tony Frank introduces the student fee increase proposals to the CSU System Board of Governors, which authorizes their implementation. A divided student opinion on a given fee increase proposal “ultimately erodes the credibility that we as students have in forming decisions regarding student fees,” said ASCSU Vice President Joe Eden.

Should Eden have his way, the opportunity for a divide won’t present itself in the future.

“If Bill 4202 is passed, the way student fees are evaluated by students will be a more involved process with regards to how student representatives [Senators] are informed throughout the process,” he said in an email to the Collegian. “Rather than voting on a Bill of recommended fees put forth by the Student Fee Review Board at the end of the year, Senators will approve a process by which fees will be evaluated in the fall, and the process will be revisited in the spring.”

The end result, he explained, would be a unified voice between SFRB and Senate, with the latter stripped of its ability to directly amend student fee increase proposals. Bill 4202 makes it so that they can only recommend changes.

“So in effect, it becomes an honesty between SFRB and Senate … If, per se, we don’t like that increase, what backing does senate have … ?” said College of Liberal Arts Sen. Halden Schnal. “I feel like there’s a lot of potential for politics in this.”

Eden said SFRB would listen to Senate’s advice.

“ … This process is not going to be a 100 percent perfect. This is an improvement tenfold on what the whole process. But, again, if you get into the issue of mandating that they have to take all of (Senate’s) proposed increases or decreases in fees, then why have (SFRB) exist to begin with?” Eden said. “Because ultimately, (SFRB) exists so that you personally don’t have to go through line by line and evaluate every single fee.”

College of Business Sen. Josh Shaughnessy echoed Schnal’s concerns, wondering why SFRB couldn’t be kept in an advisory role to advise Senate on the best course of action.

“Just like any CEO has advisors, but it’s still the CEO who would make the decision,” he said.

Eden again pointed to SFRB’s expertise in the subject of student fee increase proposals and reminded senators that 50 percent of SFRB members were reserved for senators.

Shaughnessy later voiced his support for Bill 4202, eased by the fact that senators could participate in SFRB and take advantage of its proposed independence.

Since the proposed legislation is an amendment to the ASCSU Constitution, it requires two-thirds of the Senate’s approval during two separate sessions. In between those sessions, Bill 4202 will be sent to Senate committees for discussion.

The earliest that it could be passed is Sept. 12.

“If the bill in its current form were to be brought before the Senate, it would pass, because it is indeed in the best interest of the students,” Eden said. “But if there are any changes to it in the (Senate) committees I’m not sure it will pass.”