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Connecting the Dots: Students, boycott the activity 'tax' today

Daniel Scarpinato
By Daniel Scarpinato
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 5, 2004
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Imagine this: John Mayer, one of the hippest, most talented guys in the music industry, right here on the UA campus, singing for thousands of adoring Wildcat fans.

Plus, you don't even need to buy a ticket. A $30 "voluntary" fee has already been added onto your tuition for the year and paid through your bursar's account.

Sounds great, right? Sure it does.

And since it sounds so great, there is no point in arguing against the positive results that a student "activity fee" added to the cost of tuition, which might lure Mayer or Bill Clinton to sing or speak for UA students, could bring to campus.

The substance of a student fee is not at issue here so much as the style in which it is being pushed on students.

Just a few rainy days after your elected student leaders approved a special election for you to decide once and for all the fate of the proposed student activity "tax" we've heard about for months, the election is here. And whether you'd like Britney Spears to perform in Arizona Stadium or not, you'd best boycott this election.

The campaign, organized by the very Collaboration Board that authored the fee, is said to be objective and informative, urging students to vote on, not for, the fee.

But who even cares what the literature looks like since there has been no time for campaigning anyway?

I've been pretty observant since the senate approved the special election on Wednesday, and aside from some coverage on the issue in the Wildcat, I haven't seen or heard a thing about the election. If I hadn't had to write this column, I might have forgotten altogether. My first reaction to the rushed election was that student bureaucrats were trying to pull one over on the student body, meeting club and greek leaders behind closed doors and convincing them to support the fee to sway the vote and stop most students from knowing too much about it.

But since I tend to give my schoolmates more credit than that, I've decided they're not crooked - just confused.

Does the Collaboration Board want this thing to pass? If they did, they'd spend days campaigning, not just a few hours. They'd distribute literature that contained both the arguments for and against an activity fee. If they really cared, they'd push the entire election back a week or two, instead of rushing through it. But they don't.

And because they don't, there is no way this election will seem legitimate to students, administrators and regents who must approve it. The fee can pass today by a landslide, but it will be framed by the techniques that got it into the regents' hands.

And the leaders behind this bill aren't the only ones at fault. The entire student senate is to blame.

What were they thinking, approving this rushed election without thought?

Interrogated by Blake Buchanan, one of the only spine-sturdy students on the senate, student body President J.P. Benedict admitted on Wednesday that he has already gone about putting the discussion of the fee on the Arizona Board of Regents agenda for the end of the month. Therefore, his argument that the vote needs to happen today so it can get on the agenda was either a slip of the tongue or a lie.

And I'm sure you haven't forgotten tuition was just raised by $470 last month. In fact, the same kids who are pushing this $30 fee said the tuition increase was $70 too expensive for students.

At a March tuition hearing, Benedict said $70 might not sound like a lot, but to students trying to get by, it is a lot. Well, would a $430 increase have been too much, J.P.?

The math just seems a little fishy.

Of course, a special election holds some problems of its own. We have no idea how many students will actually vote today. It's a safe bet the turnout will be a record low, since most don't know the election exists. But if you did intend to vote - don't.

Don't vote for it; don't vote against it.

This is one of the biggest screwups student bureaucrats have made in the past four years. The senate that approved today's election is blind here. The student leaders who are pushing this are bonkers. And any student who votes today will only validate and legitimize this crooked election.

Daniel Scarpinato is editor of The Desert Yearbook and a former Wildcat editor in chief. He can be reached at

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Connecting the Dots: Students, boycott the activity 'tax' today
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