Since Nov. 8, 8,376 undergraduate and graduate Cornell students have voluntarily completed the Student Fees Committee survey. This number represents around 45 percent of the student body. The survey has not finished, however, and committee members still hope to reach 9,000 students, half of the student population. The committee believes that their goal of 9,000 students will show the administration that at least one in every two students feels passionately about the issue.
The committee originally set their “realistic goal” at 5,000 responses, according to student trustee and Student Fees Committee co-chair Josh Katcher ’06. More than 2,500 students responded on the first day of the survey.
“It is really unprecedented to have so many students respond so fast,” said Sarah Boxer ’07, SA Liason to the SAFC and a committee member. Informing all these students about the survey required a great deal of advertising by the Committee, particularly through e-mails. They also placed notices in campus mailboxes, passed out quarter cards, hung posters, created Facebook groups, wrote letters to the editor in The Sun and spoke before classes.
“We want to make sure everyone who wants to respond knows about it and gets a chance to,” said Randy Lariar ’08, SA engineering representative and a member of the committee.
While running for student trustee last year, Katcher said that many students felt “nickled and dimed” by the non-tuition fees at Cornell. The Committee believes that the status quo student fees create two problems. They say that two classes of students exist at Cornell: those who can take advantage of the opportunities offered and those who cannot. Additionally, the Committee thinks that many students are so bothered by student fees that they leave campus with the mentality of never giving money back to Cornell. The University relies heavily on alumni donations and a future decrease could create serious financial issues.
“What can we do to alleviate this problem so that at least the perception is gone and financial aid students aren’t hurt?” Katcher asked.
The Committee said that fees will never go away because every fee has some cost behind it. Since Cornell has a closed economy, program funding will always be an issue. Nonetheless, the Committee feels that there may be better ways to handle the budget.
“This may have impacts on our budget practices. If we are going to continue [the programs behind the fees], we need to find a way to pay for them,” said co-chair Paul Streeter, senior project director in the University’s Office of Planning and Budget.
Moreover, the Committee feels that budgets must be kept up-to-date. They said that the University must pay attention to existing institutions and processes in order to make a decision about whether they are still efficient and valid. “It is really important, especially in the financial world, to keep reviewing things,” said Committee Member Liz Colucci, associate dean of Students for Administration & Finance from the Office of the Dean of Students.
Katcher and Streeter will be compiling the report during winter break and next semester. The data will be cross-referenced to allow for comparion between the responses from students who are and are not on financial aid, graduates and undergraduates, and students in each college. The report will be in the format of President Lehman’s Call to Engagement, offering several examples to each open-ended question and a short summary by Katcher and Streeter.
Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer