Candidates: Just say no to new fees

Yesterday, 29 candidates officially launched their campaigns for student government. Though hope springs eternal with each election season, this year's student leaders will enter an especially dour environment.


UA tuition has risen for the last three academic years, with a 9.5 percent increase this year alone. As Arizona weathers the worst recession in decades, student jobs are more difficult to find, and everyone is feeling the crunch. Yet while students are struggling, university administrators and our own student leaders have chosen to raise the cost of college by creating new fees and increasing existing ones.


""The reality is, everything's on the table,"" Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Tommy Bruce told the Arizona Daily Wildcat last week. ""Every possible fee, every possible tuition increase, it's all on the table as an option.""


We respectfully disagree.


It's troubling to think that there are potential fees outside the plethora that already exist. The Student Recreation Center takes two separate fees: one to pay for renovation bonds, and another that is adjusted for inflation (and thus continuously rising) for recreation programs. Students pay a fee each year to support the Arizona Students Association, an organization that has proven pitiful at fighting tuition increases and state budget cuts.


The Dean of Libraries has called for the $30 component of the Information Technology/Library fee to rise to $180 per student per semester. And on top of these, students pay fees for the Arizona Financial Aid Trust and KAMP Student Radio.


The latest addition to your tuition bill is the $20 Student Services Fee, imposed this year to pay for a smorgasbord of campus programs. Set to double to $40 next semester, Student Services is the most insidious fee of all.


$250,000 from your Student Services fee is dedicated to a direct subsidy for Arizona Student Unions, supporting $3 meals on Wednesdays. There's no such thing as a free lunch (or even a discounted one), because the money you save at the Union comes straight out of your own pocket, and the pockets of thousands of unassuming peers. There's no sign that this silly spending will end: $25,000 from the fee helped buy new plasma-screen televisions and $8,380 supports a student employee dedicated to ""Video Gaming.""


The latest request for student input on the fee, emailed to students earlier this month, included proposals to spend your money on a new sound system for the Cellar, ""lactation stations"" in the Student Union, a three-day social justice retreat exploring ""team synergy through drumming,"" and the Union's ever-popular ""alcohol-free late night programs."" Plenty of new, expensive, and useless stuff: but the survey offered no option to spend less and give the money back to the struggling students who need it most.


Worst of all, the Student Services Fee was never even approved by the student body! When students voted on similar fees in 2005 and 2006, they failed resoundingly. So this time around, your student government tried a different strategy: imposing a fee based on the results of an unofficial survey, which was only released to the public after we requested it last week.


In all, if no new fees or increases are approved this semester, incidental fees will have nearly tripled from $51.73 in fall 2005 to $151.50 in fall 2009. Now, more than ever, students need elected officials who will protect them from the pernicious nickel-and-diming of student fees. They need representatives who remember the people that they serve, and who will respect and represent their interests accordingly. That's why we've created the Arizona Student Fee Protection Pledge.


The idea is simple. Monday, we sent a brief letter and a copy of the pledge to every candidate up for election in ASUA's March 3 primary, asking them to ""oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase student fees"" for the duration of their term in office. Although there are many worthwhile student services on campus, these can be funded without needlessly increasing the cost of college for all UA students by soliciting outside grants and donations or by cutting extraneous expenditures.


Before you vote in student government elections, visit our Web site at azfeeprotectionpledge.com to see the list of candidates who have signed the pledge and promised to protect you from unnecessary increases in the cost of college.


We believe that student government officials serve the students first, and should do all they can to avoid increasing their financial burden here at the UA - especially in today's turbulent economic times. Candidates: rise to the call and oppose the unnecessary student fee increases that are a growing burden on UA students.


- Evan Lisull and Connor Mendenhall, former Daily Wildcat columnists and current UA students, blog at desertlamp.com.


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