Rift erupts between student, faculty representatives over SFAC changes
Monday, the Student Fees Advisory Committee met for their beginning session to set expectations for fee allocation, discuss plans for the year and elect their chair and vice chair.
SFAC is an advisory committee made up of five student representatives appointed by the Student Government Association and three faculty representatives. The committee convened to appoint sophomore Yusif Kadi to chair and senior Anahi Ortega to vice chair of the organization. While the appointments went smoothly, a rift erupted between the faculty and student representatives over the committee’s timeline.
“You’re creating more work for everybody for a result that you’re probably not going to get,” said Chad Wayne, a professor in the department of biology and biochemistry, and faculty representative on SFAC, “You may get exactly what you want. But you’re still putting hundreds of people’s calendars, times and lives in turmoil.”
The Student Service Fee is a flat fee applied to all students tuition. SFAC pools these fees to allocate funding to university student organizations and other fee-funded departments. This includes a variety of services and organizations, from Fiesta to Counseling and Psychological Services. Depending on enrollment, the total Student Fee Fund can amount to more than $20 million.
Every year, the top executives of student fee-funded organizations must fill out and complete a questionnaire detailing their organization’s goals, key performance indicators and revenue. This year, SFAC student representatives added several questions aimed at increasing financial transparency.
“The whole idea of SFAC is that the students pay and receive some sort of benefit from the money that’s paid in,” Kadi said. “My vision is to make sure there’s a good return on investment for the students.”
The SFAC questionnaire had not been updated since the 90’s, which led to rehearsed answers from funded units, according to Kadi. This year’s SFAC aims to update the questionnaire for future committees.
“The new questionnaire just asks for more data to ensure the students are put first. How can that department change up to improve and become more efficient,” Ortega said. “It asks about performance numbers, retention rates and how the organization contributes to campus culture.”
After some debate, the committee voted 5-3 in favor of extending the deadline for the questionnaire.
Later in the meeting, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, Daniel Maxwell, addressed the committee. He suggested increasing the student services fee from $260 a semester to $270, which was welcomed by members of SFAC. The committee considered higher fees for students but were hesitant to give a concrete number.
“The question of increasing fees is dependent upon the questionnaire,” Ortega said. “If USOs provide the relevant data and the money is managed efficiently, I will be in support of increasing fees.
Maxwell also notified committee members of a 5% decrease in funding for some USOs in the previous year, citing a lack of incoming students.
“Last year, looking at the impact of flat enrolments, I proposed to SFAC that we make a permanent 5% base reduction,” Maxwell said. “The reason why we talked about it for next year is because of the pandemic and anticipating the lack of new money coming in.”
With the exception of CAPS and a few other organizations, the University aims to reduce SFAC department funding by five percent. For this year, however, the University only cut about half of that percentage to serve as a buffer for this new change.
Maxwell also requested that SFAC provide more resources to the Center for Student Advocacy and Community, an organization that substitutes the duties of the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion after SB 17 prevented any universities from offering such accommodations.
“What we decided to do was to create the Center for Student Advocacy and Community, where we provide basic needs services,” Maxwell said. “Homelessness, food insecurity, issues around technology needs, and we’re able to retain the staff from the LGBTQ and CDI were able to move into these new positions.”