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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


The Admin’s New Idea: The ‘Student Activities & Facilities Fee’

So, after a few weeks of heavy coverage here on Safeguard Old State, it seems like people across the campus at University Park are finally picking up on things. Last Thursday UPUA President Gavin Keirans put the idea of a facilities fee to a vote of the UPUA Assembly of Representatives. In UPUA, the facilities fee was voted down 19-1, with the one voting against only because he thought the condemnation of the fee was too lenient on the administration.

Can you really claim due diligence when you meet with the student government to present a fee increase less than 24 hours before you expect approval?

Last Friday, the Student Activity Fee Board (SAFB) met, planning to rubber-stamp the fee increase. UPUA President Gavin Keirans stood up in opposition of the fee, and, with no real concrete answers on the nature of the facilities fee being provided by either Vice President Gail Hurley or Associate Vice President Stan Latta, Keirans stood firm against the facilities fee, and the meeting was abruptly ended with no resolution.

Now, we can only imagine how President Graham Spanier has been taking the news that students have begun to awaken and relearn their strength (and the political power of leverage in decision-making), but we can certainly presume that he is not pleased. I wonder if Vice President Hurley has been called into his office yet for her flogging.

Seriously, though, this facilities fee has been argued for terribly, and it’s clear that the administration was operating under the assumption that business would continue as usual — in other words, closed door meetings, a lack of publicity and rubber-stamping all around.

Unfortunately, Safeguard Old State learned about this facilities fee and we’ve been doing our damnedest to ensure that as much light as possible is shed on this process. You see, the administration doesn’t publicize how it controls our Student Activity Fee, and they don’t even tell the public about the meetings of the SAFB that “issue recommendations” to President Spanier on the fee, either.

If the Centre Daily Times hadn’t broken the story in March, no one would have reported on this fee until it had been announced as approved last Friday. How much different and better our world can be when things our done in public, eh, President Spanier?

Now, since UPUA President Gavin Keirans pointed out to Vice President Hurley that, to use the SAFB to approve a separate “Student Facilities Fee” would be outside of its jurisdiction, the administration called in a last minute play-change last week, deciding on Wednesday or so that they would merely reorganize and repurpose our Student Activity Fee into a new “Student Activities & Facilities Fee” (SAFF) that would accomplish the same thing.

Naturally, though, there are no clear plans on how this reorganized fee would work, who would control it or which projects it would go to support. That’s certainly not effective “partnership”, Ms. Hurley. In business, effective partnership usually involves paperwork at some point. Especially before you expect the customers to shell out an added $200 per year for nebulous, feel good construction plans that may or may not even be needed.

As SOS Executive Director Tom Shakely asked yesterday, does Penn State need to be the costliest in order to be competitive? We at Safeguard Old State emphatically say, “No!” Further, it seems that this fee suggestion speaks for itself, with The Daily Collegian coming out today in vehement support of UPUA President Gavin Keirans’ opposition, calling for a more serious proposal and working relationship from the administration.

This facilities fee fiasco that has enveloped us at Safeguard Old State over these past few weeks was avoidable from the start, yet the administration under President Spanier and led by some of the same old faces (like Stan Latta) refuse to learn how to govern effectively or transparently. They should have nothing to hide.

When Christopher Morell, Safeguard Old State’s Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy & Programming, asked publicly at the SAFB why they were even talking about a fee change and reorganization when the very guiding principles of the board prohibited such fee expansion, he was disregarded by cavalier administrators who are used to changes the rules of the game in the middle of a play. For shame.

As far as we’re concerned here at Safeguard Old State, we don’t have a fundamental problem with the idea of a Student Facilities Fee, but we do fundamentally disagree with the manner in which it is being pushed by administrators who seem to care more about our cash than our personhood and our development as young men and women.

This institution was once a leader in developing and molding the character of its students — a fact underscored by nothing less than the language of our Alma Mater. When it comes to new student facilities, we agree that some of these plans are desirable, and they would help enrich the campus environment. Let the students know, though, before you slam us with another unregulated tax hike.

All we ask is that students return to their rightful places of authority in managing and regulating things like our activity fees. SOS fights for the students, and we’re continually disappointed by administrators who tax first and decide later. Before you take our money, you must earn our support. Trust, but verify. As radical as it might sound, we’d like to see, for once, students have the final say when it comes to student fees.

We’ve requested the audio of the meeting minutes taken at last Friday’s meeting for transparency’s sake. If we can actually obtain them from an administration that is too used to closed-door sessions, we’ll make them available in full here on our website.

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Comments

Audio meetings from that meeting are likely to be repressed or “lost” somewhere. I doubt our money grubbing administrators would like for that meeting to be heard by more people than it already was. If Spanier and his foul ilk are displeased with the awakening of the students now, do you really think they will want to see it continue?

Mark my words, they are already looking for another traitor to put on their payroll, a student who with no qualms about stabbing the student body in the back. Galen Foulke can’t play that role any longer, but they know someone can and will for the right price.

$10 says they will still try to pass this facilities fee at the Trustees meeting on May 16th. Sure, the students may not support it, and may vehemently denounce it, but hey, students take a backseat to the almighty dollar when Graham Spanier rules in the ivory tower of Old Main.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they passed this, and we all refused to pay it? Or refused to pay tuition in general. That might send a message.

Unfortunately dreams like that will never happen, but maybe there is a way we can send a powerful message to our “Trustees”

I know…barge in on a trustees meeting and announce a student boycott of all Nike and Pepsi products…I think that might irritate them a fair bit. What would really piss them off would be to get everyone to follow through on it and start walking around campus with Coke products.

Only way to get Old Main to listen is to hit them hardest where it hurts most…their wallets.

The most serious challenge to a plan of that scope is that the line to come to University Park is out the door. I openly claim I have no numbers on which students pay their own tuition, but my sentiment is that, if it were a large number, the outcry would be much louder. For a launching off point on fee protest, a boycott of the food services not located in the commons should serve to put significant pressure on the admins from a complimentary source to the students. Same goes supporting the UPUA book swap initiative begun last semester.

Brilliant post representing the brilliant work SOS has done on this issue. It’s only a matter of time before the fee is imposed, but if enough students become engaged in the fight against the fee it will only be a matter of time before the ire and frustration of the student body boils over. While the opposing students may be a minority, a significant and vocal minority will start getting the administration to at least entertain the idea of changing their playbook.

Don’t ever forget that Dr. Spanier is a servant of the students and the faculty. The almighty powergrabbing admins are only support, originally put in place to facilitate the true mission of the university, researching and education. It’s as though an office manager at a law firm began controlling the office with no regard for the lawyers or clients, making and enforcing policies to enrich themselves at the behest of those truly integral to the law firm.

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