The Emory Student Government Association (SGA) is attempting to raise the Student Activity Fee (SAF) from $95 to $110 for the next academic year. Although well intentioned, I strongly oppose these efforts. Instead of raising the SAF, SGA should be finding ways to spend what funds they already have effectively or advocate for the school to subsidize all proposed budget increases without levying the cost on students.
Firstly, I think most Emory students would agree that college tuition is already far too expensive. SGA representatives advocating to raise the price of tuition on their peers (even if it is only $15) is in contradiction with their duty to represent student interests. How can SGA advocate for more affordability and student rights on campus while simultaneously asking students to pay a higher cost? Consistent inflation adjustments by university administrations have led to skyrocketing tuition rates including at University of Chicago where annual tuition is projected to exceed $100,000 within five years. Adjusting for inflation is necessary but the level that college administrations across the United States have taken it to is unacceptable. Rather than accept Emory’s constant tuition increases and advocate for an increased SAF, SGA should should actually be lobbying the administration to lower tuition and spend more cost-effectively.
Secondly, the main reason the student government finds itself in its financial predicament is because of irresponsible spending habits. Last year, projection errors by SGA resulted in a $28,000 overallocation. The budgetary problems that SGA currently face are self-inflicted wounds. Although I trust the current SGA administration and leadership, who knows who the successors will be? Who knows what will happen to all the newly collected money next year? There are currently no substantial institutional protocols in place to make sure that prior mistakes are not repeated. If safe spending habits were guaranteed, I would be much more inclined to support the increase. For instance, SGA could restructure its budgeting system and make the allocation process more transparent. It seems bizarre to give the SGA more money without recognizing that the predicament stems from SGA’s history of irresponsible spending.
Additionally, I oppose the increased SAF because of my own prior experience on SGA. Last year, I was part of the Oxford SGA and, through stricter financial policies, we were able to stay in the green and actually had a surplus. If Oxford can manage its budget responsibly under the current SAF, so can the Atlanta campus. Why should the irresponsible spending habits of Emory SGA warrant a tuition increase on the student body?
Some would argue that by attempting to raise the SAF, SGA is trying to give more back to the student body in the form of increased funding for student organizations. While this may be the result of the increase, there has been neither a passage of institutional protocol necessary to ensure a fair allocation process nor an adequate effort at financial reform. The purpose of the SAF is to fund student activities but agreeing to increase the SAF without these financial safeguards ensures nothing. Reasonable funding is still accessible at the current rate of $95. By attempting to raise the SAF, Emory SGA is choosing to solve its financial woes with expediency instead of substance and prudence. SGA should focus on fixing its problems from within (institutional reform) rather than push costs onto Emory students. This Wednesday, hold SGA accountable and vote no on the SAF referendum.
Nick Pernas (19Ox, 20C) is from Portland, OR and previously served as a member of Oxford College SGA. He is a member of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.