Safeguard Old State calls for the review of the process by which the student activity fee is allocated. In a University as large as ours, there is a need for the activity fee to be allocated by generally elected members of the student body. The current process is in desperate need of reform and new guidance.
In last year’s General Elections, only one person was elected to control the Student Activity Fee (Collegian Archives). The board that allocates student fees should not only be made of students, but students who have been chosen by their peers to hold this position.
The SOS Vision for Fee Equity
The University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC), should be replaced, or augmented with members of student government, along with popularly elected students, directly for the purpose of dispersing the student activity fee.
It is time for Penn State to create a fair process for allocating its student activity fee, as is commonplace at our Big Ten peer institutions.
Big Ten Peer Comparison
At the Ohio State University, the total of their fee is 2.18 million dollars. Of that, 55% of the fee is allocated by the Ohio Union Activity Board, a collection of students who oversee campus wide programming. Another 20% of the fee goes to student organizations, and 10% goes directly to Student Government.
The remaining 15% goes to programs designed to increase cultural awareness in the City of Columbus, and 3% goes toward a substance free community service oriented Spring Break trip. (Ohiounion.osu.edu)
At the University of Indiana, a Student Life Committee meets annually to plan the distribution of the Student Activity fee. This committee is comprised of 8 students, 2 faculty, and 2 staff members. The committee directly solicits student input from and through the student government, which is represented on the committee. (www.ius.edu/studentaffairs)
Going outside of the Big Ten, the University of New York utilizes a similar student activity fee. This fee at their University funds such programming as, “Athletics, both Intercollegiate and intramural, student publications, recreational and educational activities, etc.”
This fund, of course, must be allocated, according to the Student Activity Fee Policy, effective September 28, 2004: “Proceeds of the student activity fee shall be disbursed by the student government, through the designated independent fiscal agent, provided that the proposed fiscal commitment for each expenditure shall have been approved by the campus president or designee.” (www.suny.edu)
At Northeastern University two student committees allocate the SAF. One committee allocates to student groups, while the other funds media directly. “Two student committees have the responsibility to allocate the SAF over the course of the year. The BRC has oversight of funding for all non-media student groups, while the Media Board Finance Committee (MBFC) allocates funding for all campus media groups.”
No institution or committee will ever represent a perfect system in our imperfect world. While the University Park Allocation Committee has performed its duties admirably and often efficiently, there exists the very real potential for a better, fairer and more equitable fee distribution system by merging with the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA).
Not only would this merger immediately signal greater transparency and openness in terms of how our student activity fee is utilized, but it would also represent a much more important coalescing of student authority at our university, allowing for true leaders to speak on behalf of all students, offering an opportunity for a new generation of student leaders to work in harmony, leaving the politics of division and fragmentation in the past.