The Student Congress approved a proposal from the Planning, Research and Elections committee for a ballot referendum regarding the student activity fee. The fee is currently $95.50 per semester, and every two years the student body must vote to keep it mandatory or make it voluntary.
The referendum will be sent to undergraduates via SurveyMonkey at 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 7. Polls will close at 6 p.m. Paper ballots will be available in the Student Association office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for students who have opted out of SurveyMonkey at any point.
According to SA President Eric Larson and Congress Speaker James Grippe, the SA was under the impression that when students voted to increase the fee last year, that referendum was sufficient to make the fee mandatory. However, the SUNY Board of Trustees informed the SA on Saturday that a separate vote had to be held incorporating specific language written by the Board of Trustees.
Grippe noted that the referendum did not raise fees, and said he was confident that students would vote to keep the fee mandatory.
“Typically we don’t have a problem with [passing a referendum to make the student activity fee mandatory] because we advertise to all the student groups and all the students that they all have something that will directly impact them,” Grippe said. “Everyone has an interest in keeping this mandatory.”
All SA-chartered organizations, Harpur’s Ferry, Off Campus College Transport (OCCT), SA Ink, Binghamton Sound, Staging and Lighting and all residential communities rely on funding from the student activity fee.
“It is in everyone’s best interest, if you approve of what the Student Association does in the smallest amount, to make sure that this activity fee remains mandatory. We do not have the funds that we would need to otherwise operate without it being mandatory,” Larson said.
Harpur’s Ferry is one group supported by the fee, and Larson joked that people would “literally die” if it became voluntary. Larson and Grippe said that they are trying to avoid what happened to the Graduate Student Organization last year, when they did not vote to make their activity fee mandatory and subsequently have had difficulties collecting funds.