Jackson Schneider, Contributing

The Student Government Association (SGA) voted for the second time on Monday to pass a bill that would increase the Student Activity Fee (SAF) from $95 to $110 for the 2020-2021 academic year. The bill passed with eight votes in favor, three oppositions and one abstention. 

Having passed a second time, the bill will move to an undergraduate-wide referendum on Nov. 20, where a majority of votes in favor of the SAF increase will be required for it to pass. Ballots will be sent to students via email at 8 p.m. and will be accessible for 48 hours, according to SGA President Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C).

Prior to the vote on Nov. 18, SGA held a town hall at 6 p.m. for students to share their thoughts about the bill. However, no student body members attended. During the town hall, Palmer and SGA Vice President of Finance Ben Wiener (21C) livestreamed a discussion about why they wanted to increase the SAF. 

According to SGA VP Lori Steffel (21B), SGA sent an undergraduate-wide email to students reminding them about the town hall at 2:01 p.m., but CampusLabs did not deliver the email until 9:24 p.m., about three-and-a-half hours after the town hall began.

“While we understand that this email-delay prevented members of the student body from being reminded of the town hall in a timely fashion, it is our hope that our social media communication and prior emails notifying students of the town hall were sufficient,” Steffel wrote in a Nov. 18 email to the Wheel. “While we are avoiding any further mass email communication until this problem is resolved, we’ve asked students via social media to reach out if they have concerns about missing the town hall.”

BBA Council President Catherine Xu (18Ox, 20B), who served as a proxy for Speaker of the SGA Legislature Emily Ferguson (21B), and BBA representatives Ned McLean (21B) and Vicky Wang (21B), opposed the bill. In an interview with the Wheel, Xu said that the economic reasoning behind the bill was “sound,” but that she questioned the necessity of raising the SAF.

“We understand what inflation is,” Xu said. “Our question is — was the $86 really needed in 2006, and is the $110 really needed right now?” 

She added that she believed that the allocation of club funding should be reevaluated before deciding to increase the SAF. 

“Why are we having the discussion of SAF increase first, rather than having the discussion of looking into how the divisions are managing their budgets?” Xu asked. “Why does this macro change happen before we go and spend time and effort on an individual basis to evaluate micro-level changes?”

BBA Council VP of Finance Aditya Govindraj (21B) told the Wheel in a Nov. 18 email that BBA Council members generally disapproved of the bill, noting SGA’s failure to address the SAF split as a major reason.

“We run a very tight ship here, and don’t see the immediate need to ask our constituents for any more money,” Govindraj said. “With that being said, an injustice exists in how the SAF split is decided.” 

Oxford College SGA VP Nick Paschetto (20Ox), who served as the Oxford representative, abstained. In an interview with the Wheel, Paschetto said that he decided to abstain because a number of students expressed opposition to the bill based on an Oxford-wide student feedback form.

“I think the biggest issue with Oxford students is the information gap,” Paschetto said. “I think a lot of the information about the positives to the increase haven’t quite made it out to Oxford yet. Our goal this week is to make sure that people are informed about the issue so that they can make the right decision come time for the referendum.”

SGA Second Year Legislator Mo Singhal (22C), who, as ranking member, served as Speaker in Ferguson’s absence, cast the deciding vote to form the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill.