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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Student Government

Potential mandatory transportation fee nipped in bud by SGA


The passage of a Student Government Association resolution mounts opposition to the institution of a mandatory student transportation fee.

Resolution-51002 opposes the creation of “any new and distinct compulsory fee for the purpose of funding any University of Houston Auxiliary Services.”

Though the resolution is a sweeping opposition to any fees that would fund auxiliary services, this resolution pits SGA and the student body against the potential $25 increase in fees that has been suggested by the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee.

Supporters of the resolution — which opposes the creation of compulsory fees to fund Parking and Transportation Services — point to the fact that auxiliary services, by definition, function as a separate entity from the University and are “self-sufficient and financially independent,” according to the resolution.

PTS currently has two revenue streams: parking permits and fines. SGA President Charles Haston said he found the creation of a third PTS revenue source unnecessary and could potentially have an undesirable ripple effect.

“I just don’t think we need a new type of fee,” Haston said in an earlier Daily Cougar column. “The precedent of allowing an auxiliary service to leverage a compulsory fee on the student body troubles me.”

TPAC brought the levying of service fees to light as a possibility for dealing with PTS’s approximately $600,000 deficit. With a student population of 39,540, according to the UH Fall 2013 Facts, the $25 increase would generate a steady stream of close to a million dollars.

SGA Bauer Senator Pooja Magabi, co-author of the resolution and chair of the administration and finance committee, called the potential fee “unfair.” She said that PTS shouldn’t generate revenue from mandatory fees, especially when about 70 percent of students attending the University receive need-based financial aid.

“We really hope that any auxiliary services budgets don’t include any of our funds,” Magabi said. “If they do need funds from students, any fees that they try to levy need to go through (the Student Fees Advisory Committee).”

SFAC can determine which cases to hear.

Though the fee has not been proposed to the administration yet, the resolution standing in staunch opposition would represent the opinion of the student body if talks do proceed with the administration.

“I do hope that it isn’t vilified, that they’re trying to think of these actions. I don’t think that’s the intent,” said Speaker of the Senate Shaun Smith. “This is not to make it seem as though the administration of the auxiliary services are attempting to take advantage of students. (The Senate) just wants to make sure this position is firmly stated before (TPAC) invests so much time.”

For Bauer Senator Sunil Motwani, the burden of “mismanaged” finances that led to the deficit should not be placed on the shoulders of the students.

“We immediately knew that it was something that students wouldn’t want. … They’re not for it, so we wanted to act on behalf of them in opposition to this,” Motwani said.

But some voted against the resolution. CLASS Senator Clement Agho-Otoghile said the language of the resolution was too rigid and that using the word “any” could potentially restrain future endeavors that could be welcome. He suggested after the Senate meeting to add a time element and remove the word “any” from the language of the resolution. Other senators felt it was unnecessary to act now because the threat of a fee implementation was not imminent.

For a compulsory fee to be implemented, it must go through administrators and President and Chancellor Renu Khator before being passed by the state legislature.

Currently, auxiliary services at the University include the bookstore, copy center, Cougar cards, Dining Services, Office of Sustainability, Parking and Transportation, printing and postal and vending services.

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