Arizona Daily Wildcat November 6, 1997
Student fee reduction plan killedA last ditch effort by two ASUA officials to cut the proposed $40 Memorial Student Union fee in half failed yesterday, while the Senate adopted a measure meant give students more control over the project.
A student referendum, Nov. 18-19, will decide whether the $40 a semester fee to fund a new Student Union, will be imposed.
Associated Students cabinet members Brook Rosenbaum and Ryan Anderson could not convince the Student Union project's student advisory committee that dropping the fee to $20 would save students money.
The advisory committee, which controlled the content of the referendum, is made up of student leaders and has been meeting since August to formulate the referendum.
The proposal by Rosenbaum and Anderson would have reduced the fee to $20 per semester by adding $25 million in academic bonding to cover the project's costs, which historically contributes to increased tuition.
The University of Arizona received $90 million in bonding authority from the state Legislature last year and designated $25 million to the Student Union renovations.
Under the referendum, students would pick up $30 million of the renovation cost and academic bond money could not be used.
At the meeting, Rosenbaum said that if the bonding authority wasn't used on the Memorial Student Union, it would be used on other campus buildings.
Chief Budget Officer Dick Roberts disagreed. He said the University doesn't spend money without careful consideration.
"We don't just use it on anything that comes along," Roberts said. "We use it very judiciously. But it could take seven to 10 years to use it."
Despite the fact that a tuition increase would be paid by students, Roberts threatened that students might not be asked for input if they didn't foot the extra $40 a semester.
Committee member Benjamin Stears asked who would control the money if the academic bonding paid for the project.
"I do," Roberts responded.
Group members said later in the meeting that they were afraid of losing student control over the project.
"I didn't want to lose the protection and control we established for students," said Barbara Franklin, a public management senior and member of the advisory committee.
Rosenbaum said he believed the group had their minds made up before he even spoke.
"I don't think anybody could have changed their mind at that meeting," he said. "So that meeting had very little purpose."
Rosenbaum also said he was upset that Dean of Students Melissa Vito blocked him from entering the room until she had briefed the committee on the meeting.
The committee instead approved an amendment, proposed by ASUA President Gilbert Davidson, that would not allow the University to charge the fee if a "less than sufficient effort in fund raising has been made."
"This is what I strongly believe is the best for us now," Davidson said. "But if I am wrong, we now have the mechanisms to call it off."
The fee will begin in the Spring of 1999 unless the Student Union Advisory Council decides not to enact it based on insufficient fund-raising efforts.
Though the ASUA Senate has final authority on the wording of any referendum, Davidson said he preferred to let the advisory group decide for the student legislature what he would bring to the Senate later that night to revise.
Davidson said the senators had to approve revisions anyway to remove wording that was unclear or could be construed as campaigning on the ballot.
Even so, Rosenbaum addressed the Senate prior to their vote and asked that they reconsider their previous decision to eliminate academic bonding.
"The fact is this money has already been set aside," he said. "I am trying to make sure that everyone who has heard of $25 million is aware of its implications."
The Senate later passed the revisions 8-1, including the amendment to terminate the fee if fund-raising efforts were not increased.
The lone dissenting vote was from Sen. Summer Katzenbach.
"I think the amendment is positive and if the referendum does pass, it's a good stipulation," she said. "Perhaps the fee is inevitable, but I want to see every option exhausted before that and I don't think this is it."
Student Regent Johnathan Platt attended the Senate meeting because he wanted more information on the referendum, he said.
Platt declined to speculate about the vote of other regents, but said he was concerned about the implications of students raising their own tuition.
"I have heard some impressions from some members that it (imposing a fee) sends a message that you've got 'money to burn'," he said.