Editor’s note: This column is an op-ed in response to a Kansan editorial.
Last Wednesday, Student Senate voted to increase student fees to prevent larger increases in the future. While a $25.20 increase, or a 5.6 percent jump, is most certainly not ideal, this decision was not made lightly.
Every year, University students take on the unique task of determining the required campus fees. Such a large responsibility requires extensive preparation. During the first Student Senate committee meetings in September, representatives from the four Student Senate standing committees — which are open to any currently enrolled University student — are elected to sit on the Required Campus Fee Review subcommittee. In addition to some brief meetings in the fall, the subcommittee spends an entire weekend early in the spring semester creating a proposal. The proposal is reviewed and amended yet again by the Student Senate Finance Committee before its final approval by the full Senate.
In the past few years, the subcommittee’s proposals have compensated for large tuition increases by keeping fee increases low. As a result, many services have been forced to cut back and operate on risky budgets. However, there comes a point when students must decide to invest in a fee to sustain it or get rid of it altogether.
Last year’s Union referendum made it clear students do not want to pay to remodel and expand the Union. However, the Union’s ongoing infrastructure problems are dire and need to be addressed. This past fall, the Union was forced to turn off the entire water supply to the building to fix a leaking sink. Not only did this come at a steep price, but it’s only one example of deferred maintenance costing students. While the referendum showed that students do not want to pay to update the building, making sure the building can continue to serve students does come at a cost, which has not been adequately budgeted for in the past. Providing the Union with an adequate amount of money to address infrastructure needs ensures future Jayhawks won’t have to foot the even heftier cost of constructing a new building. This fee increase will only go toward critical infrastructure repairs and renovations to comply with ADA requirements.
Although the building is not nearly as old, the Ambler Student Recreation Center shares the problem of aging infrastructure. Additionally, many students have complained about the decreased hours of operation and services due to a large fee cut a few years ago. The rec center is struggling to meet the needs of the students who use it, which data shows is more than half of the students on campus. This $10 increase will restore the rec center’s hours and services to levels prior to the cut and provide funding for long-term projects to prevent future substantial fee increases.
As for the Student Health Fee increase, data collected from students by Watkins Health Center indicated a desire for dental services. The high cost of dental insurance coverage often results in many students not seeing a dentist for their entire college career. Providing opportunities for dental services will prevent students from having to choose between going to the dentist and paying rent. Furthermore, the skyrocketing costs of healthcare makes affordable on-campus options even more essential — which is why investing in life-saving medications for those who may have been exposed to HIV is an important service that must be available for students and is provided for by this increase in student fees.
Increased access to mental health services is also a priority for Student Senate. However, CAPS did not request an increase this year, adding that the nationwide shortage of psychologists would make any additional funding for more positions difficult to fill if we were to fund them.
There is always warranted controversy when deciding required campus fees. However, for the Kansan to say a governing body is “indifferent” simply because it did not object to a bill most had already seen is not only preposterous, but misleading. To consider money being invested in lifesaving HIV prevention drugs and testing “nonessential services” is a dangerous and disturbing conclusion. To suggest that it is not necessary to maintain buildings nearly every student passes through at least once during their college career is downright confusing. To say Student Senate should have pushed some of the most used spaces on campus to continue to try to do “more with less,” is a delusional fantasy. To expect future Jayhawks to foot an even higher bill down the road is off-putting. To jump in after the final step of the fee review process, a process that takes months of time, energy and deliberation, and suggest that Student Senate is irresponsible with student dollars is completely ignorant.
But most of all, to take a stance as “the student voice” based on facts that are simply incorrect is inexcusable.
Mady Womack and Mattie Carter are currently serving as the student body president and vice president.
— Edited by Hannah Strader