The Student Fee Advisory Committee will recommend that President F. King Alexander consider implementing a new campus-wide fee after the committee deliberated over the Beach Legacy Referendum results on Friday.
Cal State University guidelines require the SFAC to submit to Alexander a recommended course of action on any proposed campus-wide student-fee changes. The recommendation is not binding.
While the SFAC voted to recommend that Alexander respect the results of the student referendum and not implement the proposed $95-per-semester Beach Legacy Fee — which was opposed by about 60 percent of students voting in the referendum — the committee will urge him to consider instating a fee of a lower amount.
“We just wanted to say, ‘Don’t implement a $95 fee, but do what you have to do to keep this university a great university,’ ” said Brian Troutner, who is the Associated Students Inc. treasurer and the SFAC member who introduced the approved recommendation.
Troutner said that, although he respected students’ opposition to the $95-per-semester fee to fund the athletics department, overwhelming demand for increasingly limited ASI and Instructionally Related Activities (IRA) funds necessitated some sort of fee increase in order to “keep up with the status quo.” Portions of ASI and IRA funds currently go to the athletics department.
ASI President Erin Swetland and ASI Vice President Christopher Chavez adamantly opposed the recommendation.
“I fully do not support this motion in any sense,” Swetland said at the meeting. “We need to uphold the voice of students. That’s what we were elected to do.”
Swetland said she was concerned that a recommendation to impose a new fee in light of the results of the online referendum could leave students feeling that their vote didn’t matter.
“There’s a point where you have to respect students,” Swetland said, “and when they take a stand, you have to listen to them.”
She urged the committee to recommend that Alexander not institute any fee at this time. She said a better option would be to recommend that Alexander go back to the students and allow them to vote on another fee increase of a lower amount if one was necessary. The committee voted against this proposal.
After the meeting, Troutner reiterated the need for a fee increase.
He said that without a fee increase, the amount of grants made available to student organizations would decrease by 8 percent from this year to the next
Of the total amount made available to student organizations about 85 percent of the requests are for events requesting “Legacy Events” status, meaning that they “have had a large impact on this campus for at least 5 years,” Troutner said. There are about 20 of these and include events such as the Black Consciousness Conference and the “Meet the Industries” expo.
Troutner said there will most likely be more than $300,000 worth of requests for the $177,000 that will be allocated for student organizations.
He also cited an approximate $500,000 shortfall between the available and requested amounts of IRA funds, and noted ASI’s having had to reduce its level of professional development in the face of budget cuts.
Pat Kearney, the chair of the University Resources Council and SFAC member, said that Cal State Long Beach is already a very affordable school and that a new fee would be positive in the long run.
“I really think we have to bite the bullet and support this fee increase … and it doesn’t have to be for athletics,” Kearney said.
Chavez later proposed to change the recommendation to include a $30 cap on the suggested fee, but the attempt failed by a 7-5 vote.
“I think the president can make a good decision as to what is a fair amount to tax students,” Troutner said.
Swetland agreed that Alexander had the best perspective on the needs of the campus, but added that the SFAC’s job was to support the students.
“By voting yes, you are allowing this decision … to be made at the discretion of one person,” Swetland said before the final vote. “This decision could be a $92 increase, a $94 increase, a $5 increase.”
Troutner’s original proposal was approved by a vote of 7-3, with two members abstaining.
The committee participated in a blind vote as mandated by SFAC Chair and Vice President of Student Services Doug Robinson.
Swetland said she disagreed with the decision on having a blind vote and asked Robinson and the committee for transparency in the committee’s actions in order for members to stand behind their votes.
“I think that there’s an air among the student body that something’s fishy about this whole process, and I think [being] as transparent, as clear, as up front as possible, the better,” Swetland said.
Robinson responded to Swetland, saying “You’ve alluded a couple times to something being fishy. [Executive order] 1034 authorizes this committee to advise the president, whether it is to concur with the referendum, to not concur with the referendum or to come up with a separate recommendation. That is the responsibility of this committee.”
In the February SFAC meeting, members voted openly on the publicity and voting process for the Beach Legacy Referendum. Robinson said having a blind vote at Friday’s meeting was up to his discretion as committee chair.
Swetland, Chavez and Troutner opted to cast their votes audibly even though they were permitted to use the paper ballots.
Swetland and Chavez both said they would encourage students to go to Alexander and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to make their voices heard on what course of action should be taken.
“Ultimately, the ball is in the students’ court now,” Chavez said after the meeting.
He encourages students to learn everything they can about the issue and to then voice their opinions on what should be done.
“CSULB has a very long history of respecting student voices. If we use it civilly, our voices will be respected,” Chavez said.
The SFAC consists of seven ASI members and six faculty members. Click here for the current membership roster.
Other Cal State Universities — such as Sacramento and Fullerton — are currently considering similar fee changes.
In May 2008, the president of Cal State Fresno imposed a fee increase even thoug
h referendum results showed the majority of students opposing the increase, according to the Fresno State News.
CSUF’s proposed $70 increase would have gone toward IRA and Athletics Department funding.
After students voted in opposition, the CSUF Campus Fee Advisory Committee recommended that the university’s president instead implement a $52 increase for the same purpose, which the president did.
The main difference between the proposed Beach Legacy Fee and the CSUF fee increase is that the Beach Legacy Fee would create a new fee, and would not be considered an increase to an existing fee.
This difference is important given that a CSU-wide policy — Executive Order 1034, which went into effect in June — requires approval from the CSU Chancellor in order to instate a new mandatory, campus-wide fee.
The Chancellor’s approval is not necessary for the adjustment of a fee, which was the case for CSUF.
Tiffany Rider contributed to this article.
This updated version of the article was posted at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, April 12.