Noticed a sudden frenzy of activity in your dorm, group, and other Stanford-related email chatlists? You aren’t the only one. The race is on as student groups vie for a spot on the ASSU’s Ballot for Special Fees requests. The actual vote on the ballot won’t occur until April 8-9, 2010, but the deadline to get onto said ballot is this Friday, March 5.
So what does this mean for all of us? A flood of emails with subject lines taking the form:
“Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: [name of that group you randomly signed up for freshman year at the activities fair and never bothered unsubscribing firstname.lastname@example.org] Sign the Special Fees Petition for ____ (fill in with the student group of your choice)!”
Now while I appreciate the momentary thrill I get when I see things like Inbox(52) and imagine that this is what it must be like to be popular, the mass of emails about specials fees got me wondering: what even are special fees? What am I supporting when I enter my electronic signature on these petitions?
According to the ASSU Elections Commission Website , “Some student groups can’t satisfy their funding needs [through funding from the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council (GSC)], usually because they have an especially large role on campus. These groups can request that a Special Fee to fund their operations be collected each quarter directly from students.” These groups submit a budget proposal to the Senate (or the GSC); depending on the Senate’s response and the amount being requested, each group may need between 10-15% of the undergraduate student body (or graduate student body for the case of graduate student groups) to sign a petition if their request is to appear on the April ballot. For undergraduate groups, this translates into 725-1,088 students (coterms included) according to the ASSU. If a group is successful in securing these signatures, then they will need a 50% or greater approval of the request in the April vote.
However, before you get too nonchalant about the petition process, keep in mind this little tidbit of information: of the 50 groups (joint, graduate, and undergraduate) that got on the ballot for special fees in 2009, 100% had their requests approved. So which petitions you choose to support DOES matter – because chances are that if they get on the ballot they will be getting those special fees. And the money backing those special fees? It’s part of your tuition bill (granted you can ask for a refund, but come on….unless you’ve got one hell of a reason, that’s a bit of you-know-what move if you ask me).
So the next time you get one of those mass emails, mull on it, decide which groups you feel are deserving (and this doesn’t have to mean the ones that you are in – there are a lot of good ones that you aren’t a member of), and above all, remember: don’t just casually throw around your signature like it’s an STD in a freshman dorm. Because while you don’t have a choice about paying Vaden’s fee (just consider treatment for said STD “getting your money’s worth”), special fees are, in fact, up to you.