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UCS votes to increase student activities fee by $54

After a heated dispute over parliamentary procedure, the Undergraduate Council of Students voted last night to recommend that the University Resources Committee increase the student activities fee by $54.

The increase would bring the total fee from $146 to $200 per year. The resolution also requested that the URC and Interim Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Russell Carey '91 MA'06 advocate the increase and that if the URC elects not to fully fund the requested increase, the committee present UCS with a written explanation.

The body also resolved to change the name of the Social Fund - allocated to Category II and III groups - to Baseline Funding.

UCS Student Activities Chair Drew Madden '10 proposed the resolution, which other council members sponsored and co-sponsored.

While many members supported raising the fee, the council began its debate after Corporation Liaison Martin Bell '10, a co-sponsor of the resolution, objected to passing the resolution in order to force a roll call vote.

During the debate, members questioned whether raising the student activities fee would be the best way to raise money for student groups and whether UCS had adequately solicited student reaction to the proposal.

UCS Vice President Lauren Kolodny '08 implored the council to vote in favor of the increase. "I think it's ridiculous that tuition is raising with inflation, and the student activities fee is not," she said. "The important thing here is that we're advocating for a raise."

Communications Chair Gabe Kussin '09 spoke to the urgency of raising the fee, noting that funding for student groups has "gotten really bad."

"I think this is an essential resolution that has to be passed immediately and with almost unanimous support," said Kussin, who is also president of the Brown Democrats.

The UCS representative to the Undergraduate Finance Board, Stefan Smith '09, said he did not oppose an increase to the fee but was uncomfortable with giving UFB funds without oversight.

"I do have misgivings about writing such a large check to UFB without the idea that this will go to student groups in a more abundant fashion," Smith said. "My only concern is not with raising the fee, my problem is that there is no check or balance to look at this on the other end."

Smith then suggested that UCS create a committee to periodically look into UFB and its procedures.

Academic and Administrative Affairs Chair Rakim Brooks '09 spoke in favor of such a committee. "We all would feel much better, I think, if we knew there was a regimented process in place that actually demonstrated that UFB was following a set of guidelines," he said.

Madden urged the council to focus on the fee increase resolution and return to UFB discussion at a later date, calling it "irrelevant to the debate."

"We're facing a crunch now, and the fee needs to be raised this year," Madden said.

After much discussion on the fee increase, the council voted to end debate about the issue - before all speakers had expressed their concerns. The decision drew ire from some council members.

Heated debate and broken decorum ensued, especially between Brooks and Madden, before Kolodny was able to regain order.

"I think it is highly irresponsible if you voted yes to end debate because you are tired," Brooks said to the council after order had been attained. "You should have walked out of the room and not voted at all."

Brooks, enraged by what he felt was an inappropriate end to the debate, voted against the resolution.

Toward the meeting's close, Kolodny said the members were so supportive of the fee increase after two weeks' consideration that additional speakers were unlikely to sway debate. "There wasn't a whole lot that could be said that could have swayed people's opinion on this issue," she said.

"The point is I don't think it's appropriate to go and berate everyone," Kolodny added. "It's also important to give every council member the benefit of the doubt. Sure, there are some people who just want to go home, but you have no evidence."

Last year a resolution to increase the fee by $13 fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

In 2005, UCS approved a $54 increase in the fee, but the Corporation instead increased the fee by $10 after the University decided to make the Department of Athletics responsible for funding club sports.


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