Undergraduate students will receive an email today at 8 p.m. asking them to consider raising the Student Activity Fee (SAF) from $95 to $110. Student Government Association (SGA) President Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C) and SGA Vice President Lori Steffel (21B) spoke with the Wheel last week about what the increase would mean for the student body. They answered common questions about the proposal, which must receive a majority of student votes in an undergraduate-wide referendum to pass. Here is everything you need to know about the SAF.
What is the SAF?
The SAF is a certain amount of money used to fund student organizations, clubs and events. Every student pays the SAF as part of their tuition. The fee is allocated by SGA to the different divisional councils and executive agencies across Emory University and used for undergraduate campus life.
Why is the SGA trying to increase the SAF by $15?
During their campaign for SGA president and vice president, respectively, Palmer and Steffel promised to reduce the financial burden of clubs and organizations. With the additional $15, SAF revenue could hypothetically increase by $120,000 for the upcoming year, according to SGA VP of Finance Ben Wiener (21C).
Wiener argued that as inflation rises, the SAF should rise at the same rate so that clubs can maintain the same buying power. The SAF was originally implemented at $86 in 2006 and was to be increased by 3 percent every four years through a vote, which Wiener said did not keep up with inflation rates. After a semester-long research process, SGA concluded that the SAF should be increased by $15 to make up the difference lost from inflation. They considered inflation rate data from the Social Security Administration and the SAF levels at peer institutions. According to the proposal’s website, the SAF “would not only benefit the entire campus, [but also] would put our SAF at where it should have been for years.”
If the bill passes, the SAF would also automatically increase by 1.5 percent every year, a number based on average U.S. inflation over the past 20 years. SGA would have the option to suspend the increase any year.
Why is SGA introducing this proposal now?
The increase of the SAF was part of the Palmer administration’s broader effort to revise the entire SGA Finance Code and governing documents, according to Steffel. SGA chose to propose the SAF increase now because the Emory Board of Trustees, which has the final say on all initiatives that affect tuition, must receive the outcome of the ballot referendum by Nov. 25 in order to deliberate the tuition hike. Due to the time constraint, SGA decided to propose it as their first effort toward revising the finance code.
What is the timeline of the proposal?
The bill is categorized as an Issue of Significance, according to Steffel, which requires several rounds of voting to pass. SGA sent out emails to inform the entire student body of the bill before their first vote on Nov. 11, where it received a two-thirds majority to move on to the second vote. The second vote occurred on Nov. 18 and also received a two-thirds majority. Prior to the second vote, the student body had the chance to attend a town hall to express their thoughts and concerns. Having passed both votes, the proposal will now go to the student body for a Nov. 20 undergraduate-wide referendum. It will require majority support to pass, afterwhich Palmer will send the bill and the outcome of the referendum to the Board of Trustees.
Ballots will be sent to students via email today at 8 p.m. and voting will be open for 48 hours.