Posts Tagged ‘special fees’

Party With Fees: A Lighthearted Rant

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Would you like $250 $140? Right now? Free and clear? How about every quarter? Yeah, so would I. However, unlike most random hypothetical questions, I can actually deliver on this one. $250 $140 of your tuition per quarter automatically goes to special fees. However, saying as you don’t ever actively consent to this distribution of funds to various student groups, the ASSU would be in something of a legal snafu if they didn’t give you the option of taking the money back at some point. So they do. For the first two weeks of every quarter, you have the option of waiving the money you paid for special fees. It’s really that simple. You can get a refund for $250 $140 worth of special fees every quarter. The solitary attached string? The leadership of groups that get special fees are allowed to request a list of students who waived their fees and may bar those students from using their services. But that’s seriously it. Now some food for thought: what could I buy with the $750 $420 a year that I currently spend on special fees? Here’s my short list:

 – A boatload of Philz coffee

Seven Four trips skydiving

– One of those giant stuffed trees from the bookstore

– A romantic weekend in Tahoe

– My weight in marshmallows

– *Part of* The mens water polo team

– Parking for my entire Stanford career ~two years

– A flight to somewhere very far away

30 17 cases of Two Buck Chuck

– Half an Ochem textbook

– An iPhone 17

3 2+ Dance Marathon pledges

– The worlds most hipster bike

Someone to slap me when I procrastinate (could definitely use one of those right about now…)

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The Moral Implications of Special Fees

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Student election season is here again, which mostly means that a bunch of freshmen are scrambling to find rides to Kinko’s to print their best puns. Regardless of which 15 undergraduates are elected to the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, this year’s campaign season has brought to light a far more interesting, and far more contentious, aspect of the elections process: student group special fees.

I think it is fair to say that just about everyone is confused about special fees. Special fees is an amorphous vat of money outside of general fees to fund student groups that can’t be funded through normal bureaucratic channels, and as such it is inherently confusing: since it is essentially impossible for the average student to try and understand the intricacies of the ASSU funding system, let alone each of the 600 student groups’ funding needs, voters are unable to understand why or for what a group should receive special fees.

If this chimpanzee had applied for special fees, he would likely have been violating the principle of universalizability.

Because of this system, groups take advantage of the system and stretch the boundaries of special fees legitimacy. This issue was brought to light by the special fees petition of the members of the Stanford Flipside, in which they requested 7,000+ dollars to buy themselves a Segway scooter. The Flipside’s satire attracted a fair amount of attention, and certainly achieved its satirical mission: it made clear that the special fees process has enormous, easily exploitable loopholes. The Flipside has exposed the problems with special fees that other groups have been abusing for years. The actions these groups are taking are, in my opinion, wrong: it is immoral for students to game the special fees process at the expense of other students. But why?

After thinking about this issue, I believe it is possible to create a coherent moral justification for rewarding special fees money. There are right and wrong actions for student groups requesting special fees to take, independent of other student groups’ actions or the rules of special fees. Just because the law does not prohibit an action does not make it morally justifiable, nor does the fact that other groups are acting immorally condone one’s immoral actions.

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The Flipside’s $7,000 Joke

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The Flipside's requested Segway could have many uses, including a quick trip down University Ave for some Pizza My Heart.

How much are you willing to pay for a good laugh? For The Stanford Flipside, seven grand is fair game.

In its latest issue, The Flipside announced that it has requested a Segway in its special fees budget for next year. The Segway appears as a $7,000 “Equipment Purchase” in The Flipside’s actual budget, viewable on the ASSU Elections website. The Flipside staff aren’t making any attempts at subtlety, either; the futuristic electric vehicle comprises just under half of the club’s $14,400 funding request.

The funny thing is, they’re only half-kidding. According to the club’s President, Jeremy Keeshin, “One of our goals with the Segway is to call attention to a lot of the line-items in other groups’ budgets that are easily overlooked. There are groups with $80,000 or $100,000 budgets that may include way more than $10,000 of unnecessary spending but are overlooked because of a large budget. We encourage you to look for the Segways in other people’s budgets.”

Keeshin has a point. KZSU, for instance, is requesting almost $30,000 for their salaries for their officers. The Stanford Daily continuously asks the student body to chip in for their printing costs, for which they last year received $89,500; The Daily claims that the money is meant to serve as a small subscription fee for campus-wide service. Meanwhile, Stanford students happen to be very generous when it comes to the budgets of student groups. They rejected just six special fees requests in 2010, and rejected none of the requests in 2009, in the trough of America’s lingering recession.

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