Nov 20, 2019

Fee committee recommends $52 increase

Students lined up as much as three or four deep to express their opinions to the Campus Fee Advisory Committee about the possible $70 increase to student fees during an hour-long open forum discussion Wednesday.

The open forum preceded the fee committee meeting, where committee members made their formal recommendation to President John D. Welty about the fee increase. Welty will make the final decision on the fee, but the committee recommended keeping the $20 portion of the fee that would go to academics, and reduced the $50 portion that would go to athletics down to $32.

Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Juan Pablo Moncayo, a member of the committee, said that the yes or no vote wasn’t as important to Welty as the reasoning behind their decision.

While the committee rejected the $70 increase as it was initially proposed to students within the first ten minutes of the meeting, it spent almost an hour afterward discussing the rest of their recommendation.

No timeline for Welty’s decision has been determined.

Issues that came up during the forum and the committee meeting included the ability of students to pay any increase, how much funding to give academic programs compared to athletic ones and whether the committee should follow the student’s vote.

Michael Becker, a political science instructor, said that disregarding the students’ votes turns the entire process into a moot point.

Members of the fee committee stayed silent during the public forum, but during their meeting, which was also open to the public, they took the opportunity to address others’ comments.

“Our recommendation doesn’t override that of the students,” said Kristen Avinelis, one of the five student members on the nine-member fee committee. She said that Welty has the students’ recommendations in the form of the vote, and the committee should give its own.

During the forum, those opposed to the increase and those in favor of it took turns explaining their positions to the committee, a 75-member audience and several television cameras.

One of the students who asked for the fee increase was Moses Harris, a senior football player.

“We need support from the student body,” Harris said. “We represent this institution when we play.”

Athletic director Thomas Boeh also came out to explain why he thought the fee increase was necessary. He said the best academic universities also have the strongest sports programs.

Without the increase, Fresno State risks losing its Division 1A status, and would have to go down to Division 3, Boeh said.

The athletics money would mostly go to fund the two new women’s sports, swimming and diving, and lacrosse.

One of the reasons the fee committee recommended the reduction was because $32 per student was the bare minimum needed to get those new sports started; the increase would add up to about $1.4 million dollars for the two sports.

Over the course of the hour, students speaking who were opposed to the fee increase slowly began to outnumber students speaking for it. In the end, about 20 students came out against the fee increase, while only five showed up to speak for it.

Ashley Fairburn, a junior majoring in history and women’s studies, called herself a “proud nerd” who “didn’t come here for athletics.”

“I shouldn’t have to pay for somebody else’s hobbies,” Fairburn said.

Walter Ramirez spoke about students struggling with other financial concerns.

“I have no food in my fridge,” Ramirez said. “All I’ve had to eat today is a cookie. $20 is a lot for me.”

A few students asked that the fee be split apart. It was presented as one referendum on the ASI elections ballot, where students voted it down 777 to 412.

“We threw the baby out with the bathwater,” said Josh McDonald, a senior and ASI chief of staff. He asked the committee to consider the fee increase as two separate proposals.

Sara Campbell, ASI Senator for the College of Arts and Humanities, spoke against the athletic fee increase but supported the $20 IRA fee increase. She read a list of groups that requested money from the IRA fund that had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough.

These included requests from the theater department asking for help to fund its plays, and the music department asking for travel money so that choir singers could sing at concerts and competitions. Neither department receives state funding for these activities.

“This fee would really help them,” Campbell said.

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