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Special fees affect student group spending decisions

Last spring’s special fees election resultshave resulted in budgeting changes for several student groups, including those whose petitions were not approved.

(SERENITY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

 

Most student groups are funded by ASSU General Fees, collected from all students and appropriated by the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council. Special fees, decided by the student body in annual spring elections, give groups additional ability to impact the student body.

 

Alternative Spring Break (ASB) received $14.61 per student this year, a relatively high amount. The group’s Executive Director Sarah Hennessy ‘12 says ASB “wouldn’t exist” without special fees.

 

“We’re thinking about trying to expand the number of participants per trip, because the school and the student body have been so generous in giving us enough money to fund the program,” she said.

 

ASB also plans to use this year’s special fees to enact a mini-grant program for participants after their trips are finished, so as to have a greater impact on the student body at large.

 

“We want to bring this to the Stanford campus in a bigger way, because we have to limit our participation so much based on logistics,” Hennessy said.

 

Jaslyn Law ‘11, Co-Editor in Chief of the Leland Quarterly, said special fees have given the group a “lot more leeway” than last year, when the group did not secure special fees because of its own administrative mishap.

 

“It was really awful not to have them,” Law said.

 

The organization was forced to halve the number of issues it printed and spent all of its funds on printing costs. Though the group scraped by last year, their leadership noted that their $2.22 per student in special fees this year enables them to go beyond the bare minimum.

 

“We can do a lot more with our fees, like marketing and having more events like release parties that celebrate the contributors and the staff and increase our visibility on campus,” she said.

 

FLiCKS, on the other hand, did not receive special fees this year, because of its failure to secure a high enough percentage of the graduate student vote. According to Assistant Director Rex Kirshner ‘13, Flicks has had to deplete nearly all of the funds it kept in reserve and shelve some of the new projects it had hoped to implement.

 

“It has meant that we haven’t been able to do a lot of cool initiatives that we wanted to, like outdoor screenings or double features,” he said. “We’re surviving, but it’s less fun than it could be, and we’ve learned that we need to be much more careful with special fees.”

 

Flicks Financial Officer Paul Ferrell ‘13 said he regrets the loss of their fees and stressed the necessity of obtaining them for next year.

 

“[Flicks is] a huge bonus to the campus,” he said. “It’s been around forever, and there’s no way it can exist without special fees.”

 

Groups have also been affected by the fact that special fees can be retracted by students who choose to request refunds. According to ASSU Funding Coordinator Daniel Lynch ’12, the ASSU recently passed a bill making available to organizations the names of students who submit refunds in order to prevent abuse of the system.

 

“The waiver process is a very good idea in that it allows people to not have to pay for things that they don’t believe in,” Lynch said.

 

Since ASB receives a relatively large amount of special fees per student, it is one of the more commonly refunded groups, according to Hennessy. She said the group plans to use the new ASSU bill to determine whether students who have been accepted into an ASB trip have requested refunds.

 

“It’s not really fair if you turn around and want to participate in a trip and have the rest of the student body paying for your experience,” she said. “It’s a good way to keep students responsible in the way the student body and ASSU is using our money.”

 

Lynch also responded to student criticism after The Stanford Flipside‘s petition for special fees to purchase a segway was approved.

 

“The process was made how it is so that if the students expressed interest in getting that–which they did by petitioning and subsequently voting for it–it could happen,” he said.

 

Hennessy echoed these sentiments.

 

“I like the fact that if enough of the student body thinks it’s a good idea, and we can vote on it, then they get to do it, rather than the money just being divvied up by some algorithm to every group,” she said.

 

“It’s hard to come up with a perfect system,” Lynch said. “The way that it is enacted is to try to best represent what the students want.”