The first set of numbers puts the increase in special fees for the 2011-12 academic year at 2.06 percent. All but three groups—The Claw magazine, Stanford Chaparral and FLiCKS—were approved for special fees this election season, putting the number for next year at $1,869,907.31. Last year’s special fees totals stood at $1,831,317.23.
However, only a minority of the student population knows the ins and outs of the special fees system. The process began during winter quarter, when each Voluntary Student Organization (VSO) submitted an application to the ASSU with its proposed budget and request for special fees.
According to Ryan Peacock, ASSU executive chair of Graduate Affairs, the ASSU Appropriations Committee and GSC Funding Committee “do a long marathon session where they go through all the proposed budgets, make suggestions, tweak, make sure they’re within all of the requirements and then that goes to a vote of all of the relevant legislative body.”
“The catch is that’s only if you’re increasing 10 percent plus inflation,” he said. “You can petition the student body and get whatever increase above 10 percent.”
Who the “relevant legislative body” is depends on whether that particular VSO serves the undergraduate student, graduate student body or both.
Student approval of VSO budgets is the first in what ASSU Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 outlines as a multistep process. The University will now begin to review all approved budgets to ensure that they are executable.
“The University cannot collect fees for partisan political activities, for instance, because it is a nonprofit,” Trusheim wrote in an email to The Daily.
The ASSU financial manager then determines what the “student activities fee” will be for the next academic year, a fee that covers both special and general fees.
“General fees groups are just groups that go to the weekly GSC or Senate meetings and request smaller amounts of money to get voted on,” Peacock said. “The special fees groups, because they’ve been essentially approved by the student body in a general election, are essentially guaranteed their money.
“For general fees you’re given money for a special event and if you don’t spend that money it’s taken back at the end of the year.”
That fee is collected on a quarterly basis. Once Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) receives these funds from the University, it directly transfers the lump sum to each VSO’s account at the beginning of the school year.
“SSE administers all the finances for the student groups, so once those fees come in we’ll transfer them to fund the accounts of the special fees groups,” said graduate student Raj Bhandari, ASSU financial manager.
The per-student increase in special fees next year has yet to be determined, as it will depend on the number of students actually enrolled come autumn quarter.
However straightforward the process may seem, the avalanche of paperwork and tight restrictions have been a source of discontent for many VSO financial managers.
“A lot of financial officers do complain about how difficult it is in terms of rules and restrictions, but at the end of the day, my personal opinion on this is that…special fees is a privilege, not a right,” Peacock said.
“Going along with that privilege you have to show sufficient responsibility,” he added. “When your funds are in the thousands of dollars, there is a process you have to go through.”