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SGA petitions to increase student activities fee

By Marisa RussellASSISTANT COPY CHIEF

The Student Government Association (SGA) is pushing for a new petition to be passed to raise the student activity fee, which hasn’t been increased since 2008. There are over 125 clubs accessing the money, about three times as many clubs as there were six years ago. The student activity fee, a part of tuition paid each semester, is currently $75 per semester for each student. The petition summary says, “Let’s increase the student activity fee $25 and increase the funding for events around campus!” SGA suggests that the fee be raised $25 to total $100 per semester for every undergraduate student. The petition states that increasing the fee will allow students to see more events on campus, inspiring more school spirit. The fee increase will be a total of a $50 increase to students’ University bills. “SGA gets a portion of the student activity fee and the remaining portion goes to Student Affairs,” Alyson Guarino, SGA comptroller said. “But in the end all of it goes back to students.” SGA’s portion of the fee is used to allocate funds to SGA- and non-SGA-recognized clubs on campus, to allow them to host events and purchase apparel for organizations. The petition only addressed the amount that the student activity fee will increase, but did not detail a plan for how that funding increase will be distributed to clubs, or whether all of it will be coming back to SGA. There is no official guarantee how much will be given to SGA even if the fee increases. “Our purpose in allocating money is to allocate money to student-run organizations so they can function. Recently we have been having trouble doing so because we have so many organizations,” said Guarino. “A lot of clubs are having trouble functioning because of all of the increase, so the money is being spread thinner.” With the increase of clubs and lack of funds, students are speaking out about the issue. “People are unhappy with the amount they’re allocated, but we allocate as much as we have. We’re backed into a corner where we don’t have any more funds to allocate but the students need it,” said Guarino. “A lot of students have brought it to my attention that they want more money to go to the student body. They want more funds to be allocated.” Guarino and SGA President Mark Atkinson said that students came to SGA requesting more funding be given to clubs, and SGA discussed ways to make that possible. “If you look across campus there’s a common string of students who want to see more events on campus, to see more pride on campus. Club leaders who want to go to conferences and tournaments off campus to represent Hofstra and to put Hofstra’s name out there,” said Atkinson. “Unfortunately everything does have a price tag.” Atkinson and Guarino, two SGA chair members that are a main organizers of the petition, have been in contact with the vice president for student affairs, Houston Dougharty, as well as the executive vice president of the University before taking the idea to the University to assess. Dougharty stated that he believed the increase is something that should not be seen as unusual. “To me this should not be an anomaly,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with the openness and the transparency,” Dougharty said. “They’re going to dining services, and they’re going to plant, and they’re going to budget people, trying to see whether students support it.” The student support has been gained through the petition, which had 1,169 signatures as of noon on Friday, Nov. 14. Along with signatures, SGA has been accepting handwritten notes and letters from clubs in support of increasing the student activities fee, where clubs can mention how an increase in funding would better support their club. “I am personally in favor of the petition and what it entails. Having been on club executive boards for three years, I know the pains of dealing with an under-funded budget, and I know many other student leaders do too,” said Sean Grealy, Newman club president and junior exercise science major. Grealy also said that he signed the petition because he believes this could bring more opportunity to clubs for funding. “If the student activity fee were to increase, all clubs would benefit. As president of Newman Club, I can attest to the programs we’ve had to sacrifice due to budget cuts, such as days of community service, fundraisers for mission trips abroad and student-led retreats,” said Grealy. His words mirrored the argument that many clubs who are for the petition are making. Karl Koeppel, associate director of student leadership and activities and SGA advisor, spoke about the petition’s importance, “Having signatures and having letters from clubs really demonstrates that it’s the student activity fee.” Students are freely given the option by SGA to sign or not to sign the petition to demonstrate their opinion of the proposed legislation. Joe Flanagan, vice president of the Hofstra Dutchmen, an all-male a capella group on campus, was one club leader that does not agree with the proposition. “I’m against the petition because [SGA] wants more funding when they’re only guaranteeing the same amount of funding for the [non-SGA-recognized] groups that I’m in,” said Flanagan. Dutchmen were recently made a non-SGA-recognized club at the beginning of last year because of their exclusivity in choosing members. Due to the group’s non-SGA status, Hofstra Dutchmen is only permitted access to five percent of SGA’s funding, in which the funding must go to something that will benefit the entire Hofstra community. “Personally, I’m going to pay an additional 25 percent to be told I’m only able to have 5 percent of the total,” said Flanagan. He stated that if SGA were to increase the percentage of funding to go to non-SGA-recognized clubs, he may be more likely to sign the petition. No changes have been officially made as SGA has not presented the idea to the University yet. “I think its clear that we’re disappointed,” said Flanagan. “I wish I had another forum to bring this to because if our fans and people on campus knew that we were struggling in this situation, I think that there would be a lot of pressure on the Student Government Association.” Regardless of the effect of the petition and the proposal being made, Vice President Dougharty believes that the event is beneficial. “I think SGA is asking all the right questions and regardless of how it ends up, everyone will have a lot more info about how the process works and how SGA supports engagement on campus.” According to Dougharty, the University is in the midst of putting together its budget for the 2014-2015 school year, and he stated that this is the perfect time for SGA to bring the idea to the table for it to best be heard. Grealy mentioned the petitions importance to all students on campus, regardless of their club involvement. “For anyone who is opposed to the idea of an increase fee at all, think about it in the grand scheme of things,” said Grealy. “Without these funds, organizations on campus that host events like Music Fest in the spring, Random Acts of Kindness Day and others that all students are able to enjoy will suffer.” SGA will continue to obtain student signatures and voices on the issue, both for and against, before presenting the fee rise proposal to the University.

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