The idea of fully disclosing how every tuition dollar is spent would prove ridiculous. Imagine receiving your several-page-long bill, itemized to the point of absurdity (30 cents for staples? 16 cents for TA salaries?). Not only that, but it would be utterly infeasible for the University to provide students with such in-depth information. Some transparency, however, is a good thing—and a recent decision by Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews is about to lower the shade on the little window students have into the inner workings of the University.
In an e-mail to students last month, Goff-Crews announced that beginning next year, three line items on students’ tuition bills—the Student Activities Fee, the Health and Wellness Fee, and laboratory fees—will be consolidated into a single “Student Life Fee” (SLF). The change, Goff-Crews wrote, will “simplify the student bill.” Goff-Crews’ announcement seeks to rectify a problem that doesn’t exist. Is anyone confused by the three charges that the Student Life Fee would combine?
The change could actually be detrimental, giving students less information about where their money is going. Next year, the Student Activities Fee and the Health and Wellness Fee will constitute 94 percent of the combined SLF, with “special academic resources,” such as laboratories and libraries, making up the additional six percent. There’s no reason to assume that these proportions will stay the same in future years. However, when Student Government officials requested that the SLF continue to be publicly broken down into its constituent elements, the administration refused, according to the April 22 College Council minutes.
Currently, the revenue generated by the Student Activities Fee (more than $2 million) is distributed entirely by Student Government and its various funding bodies. The money goes straight from students to student-run committees. But next year, with three separate fees combined into one nebulous whole, it will be easier for administrators to shift funds around to suit their needs. In fact, this has already happened. In her e-mail, Goff-Crews mentioned that money from the SLF would go toward libraries, something that is not encompassed by any charges that the new fee purports to be combining. Moreover, it is unclear why money from the SLF, rather than from tuition, is going to support the libraries.
College Council has passed a resolution criticizing the administration’s plan. Administrators should listen to students and withdraw their plan to reduce transparency.