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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Why Do Penn Staters Have To Pay For Napster?

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on the website of “Safeguarding Traditions Of Penn State,” which was the precursor to Safeguard Old State. It appears here for posterity.

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One of the many things that plague Penn State students’ wallets when school is in session is the bloated Student Activity Fee (SAF). According to discussions with Dr. Vicky Triponey at the most recent meeting of the Student Activity Fee Board (SAFB) which is the administrator-controlled board responsible for the activity fee, the university will be charging massively increased activity fees each year for at least the next few years.

Why is this the case? Because the SAF provides for countless programs, organizations and other operational costs for student groups, student programming and more. Unfortunately, there are a number of allocations within things like the SAF and the Internet Technology (IT) Fee that have been set aside by non-students but which is paid for by students, regardless.

One of the most prominent examples is how Penn State provides “free” Napster service to all students. This so-called “free” service is actually paid for by student money in a deal brokered between executives at Napster and Penn State President Graham Spanier in 2003 as part of an effort that Spanier had personally undertaken to reduce the use of then-popular file sharing networks like Kazaa and Morpheous.

The idea was that if students could be provided with a subsidized, legal service like Napster for all their music-related wants and needs that illegal file sharing would greatly decrease. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

After more than three years in practice, the Napster service, which every student at Penn State is forced to pay for regardless of whether he or she actually uses Napster, has not proven itself successful at accomplishing more than making the student activity fees even more unnecessarily bloated.

One of the many problems with President Spanier’s unilateral decision to force all Penn State students to pay for a service of dubious value is that it’s not actually available for all students. Napster only works on Windows platform computers, which means that any student who prefers or regularly uses an Apple machine, by default, is unable to enjoy the use of Napster, a program that the student is still required to pay for through the fee.

Without getting into the complex debate over whether Napster actually cuts down on illegal student procurement of music, videos or full-length movies, it’s clear that this Napster service is a waste that serves to do little more than provide some temporary fun for freshman, particularly.

Penn State administrators would be hard pressed to offer legitimate reasons to continue forcing students to subsidize a service many either physically can’t enjoy or otherwise just don’t care to utilize.

When we talk about the bloated tuition and fee rates for students and reckless administrators, this is the type of stuff we can hold out as small but clear examples of poor programs that do little more than siphon off more money from students already vastly depleted coffers.

If Penn State administrators are being honest and really do want to make our education here more affordable, they can start by eliminating needless spending like the forced subsidization of the Napster service.

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Comments

Hi,

I and two other Undergraduate Student Government (USG) members sent a letter just over a year ago to University administrators regarding the Information Technology fee. A copy of the letter is available:

https://php.scripts.psu.edu/webaccess/clubs/up/usg/wiki/Image:It_fee_senate_invitation_3November2006.pdf

A University representative has not yet addressed USG on this topic. However, I have been told that increases to the fee will level off in the upcoming years.

“One of the most prominent examples is how Penn State provides “free” Napster service to all students.”

While not free in a strict sense, my impression is that “dirt cheap” is a good way to describe the program.

Hope this helps,
George

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