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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

The Student Activity Fee Board? Hey, What’s That?

…At least, that’s the response you’re likely to hear from administrators when you ask who controls the Student Activity Fee. You see, the Office of Student Affairs at Penn State operates an Orwellian-style advisory board that controls our Student Activity Fee (SAF).

That board, of course, is the “Student Activity Fee Board” (SAFB). This advisory board consists of a few members from throughout the administration, a few representatives from the Council of commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG), one representative from the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and one representative from the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC). The SAFB is headed up by the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Now, we’ve gone over the many problems with the manner in which our Student Activity Fee is controlled by the administration before at Safeguard Old State, so I won’t go into everything right now — you can read about that at your leisure.

The main point I want to make about the SAFB here, though, is that it is merely an advisory board, not a decision making body. The SAFB can collectively issue an opinion on how policy should affect the Student Activity Fee, but regardless of their advice, the final decision ultimately rests with one person…the Vice President for Student Affairs. For now, that person is Ms. Gail Hurley.

So, you want to find out more about this Student Activity Fee Board, you say? Whoa there. Let’s not be too hasty, here. Administrative transparency is not exactly the word of the month (or year) when it comes to the way our administration operates. You see, for some reason, an administration with an annual operating budget of nearly $4 billion somehow couldn’t find it in their schedule or budget to make any public information available about the SAFB.

Despite the fact that the SAFB has absolute and final control over our Student Activity Fee, including how much it costs each year and which major interests get the funds, the administration hasn’t even put anything up about the SAFB on any part of their website. Meeting dates, times, delegates and agendas…not to be found.

If the administration under Ms. Hurley and President Spanier were serious about promoting a more “student centered” University, they could have started by making their decision-making processes and policies that directly impact students public information.

Why is all of this important now, you ask? Well, that pesky “Student Facilities Fee” that the administration is trying to push down our throats will be coming to an initial vote this week. This Friday, to be precise, in 223 HUB-Robeson Center. We haven’t been able to find out what time, yet, though, so if you’re thinking of showing up, come early just in case.

Oh, and in case you’re confused about why a thing called the “Student Activity Fee Board” would be voting to approve a seperate tax called a “Student Facilities Fee”, you’re right to be confused. SOS Executive Director Tom Shakely already exposed the fact that, to rule on this new, seperate fee, would be to overstep the jurisdiction of the SAFB. The SAFB rules prohibit them from ruling on any new types fees.

I guess it’s not so surprising, though. If your meetings and decisions are already hidden from the public, is there really even a need to follow the rules of the game when you can break them at will? After all, it’s not like any of this will ever be exposed, right?

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