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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

So there I was in Tigert Hall, waiting, watching and livestreaming (of course). It was time for the annual local fee committee meeting. The committee recommended fee increases to help support the Disability Resource Center, Dean of Students Office and Student Government. The University Athletic Association had its proposal voted down. The Counseling & Wellness Center did not submit a proposal, as it is still in the process of hiring new counselors.

The room was filled with administrators and a handful of students. Students comprised the majority of the committee because students are the ones paying the fees. Each of the entities then presented proposals for fee increases.

First up is the Disability Resource Center. The director gave his presentation, illustrating the growing amount of students who utilize the center. With a 9-cent increase, he said he plans to hire an assistant director for access and inclusion, who will not only assist students but will also work with departments and professors to help design courses that are more accessible. There are plans to increase outreach to international students and other groups that are underrepresented in their utilization of the DRC.

I think back to last Spring when The Alligator published a feature article about how the DRC struggled with growing demand. It noted that the DRC had submitted a proposal last year to bring on another staff member but the students on the local fee committee had voted it down. Oops.

Second up was the Dean of Students Office. The dean and an assistant dean presented on the purpose and needs of the Care Team. There are concerning metrics, such as numbers showing that student usage has climbed rapidly while the amount of case managers has stagnated. There has been a 600 percent increase in email referrals over the last four years. It was mentioned that the workload has tripled for case managers. The DSO wanted just a 5 cent increase to hire a new case manager. With another one, it could improve the student-manager ratio and decrease wait times. I wondered to myself why the committee denied the office’s similar proposal last year. Why did it let things get so dire for the DSO?

So yeah, then the University Athletic Association came in, asking for an entire dollar increase. The athletic director talked about fully rolling out high-quality Wi-Fi in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and mobile ticketing for football games. He said it has been about 20 years since the athletic fee was raised, and the fee supports discounted season football tickets and free entry for other events.

Finally it was Student Government’s turn. Surprise! It asked for a fee increase of 57 cents, which is funny because I distinctly remember many, many people being vehemently against fee increases for the past couple of years. I mean, it preached the anti-fee increase spiel when it voted against the CWC’s proposal for more mental health counselors last year. Well, well, well, how the turntables… The presentation was much doom and gloom about how we will be cutting positions and having shorter building hours because we apparently predict a smaller incoming freshman class or something.

SG said there is no flexibility in the budget, but we spent $130,000 to get Pitbull to come speak and not even sing.

So the committee approved everyone’s proposals except for the UAA’s because the students on the committee cannot say for sure whether students would be willing to pay an extra dollar per credit hour.

I wonder what’s different this year. How can a committee go from denying every single fee increase proposal the previous year to approving almost every single one this year? Is it because we would look really bad only approving SG’s fee increase proposal? Is it because the students on the committee saw the consequences of the actions from the year before? Either way, at least we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully the Board of Trustees will vote accordingly.

Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior and Murphree Area Senator. His column appears on Fridays.

 

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