Trinity relies on a technicality in order to scrape money from the student activity fee, the $150-per-semester payment that every student pays on top of their tuition. What they’re doing is legal, but it flies in the face of the spirit of the student activity fee and experiential learning.
We each contribute $150 every semester to a common pool that the university collects. The business office keeps four percent of this total for the university and gives the rest to the Student Government Association (SGA).
Each spring, the senate allocates annual budgets for university-sponsored organizations, including TUVAC, as well as Recreational Sports and Campus Publications, which comprises the Trinitonian and the Mirage.
TUVAC, Campus Publications and Recreational Sports each use student activity fee money to employ students, some of whom are eligible for Federal Work-Study (FWS) positions. 75 cents of every dollar paid to students in FWS positions is reimbursed to the university by the US Department of Education.
So when Trinity pays FWS students from TUVAC, Campus Publications and Recreational Sports’ financial accounts, their wages are tallied along with the rest of the FWS payments toward the total amount that the university will be reimbursed.
There’s no problem when Trinity keeps the reimbursements on, say, payments made to students working in the library. They’re being paid with revenue generated by donations and tuition, so of course the university should count on receiving 75 percent of those payments back.
But there is a problem when Trinity collects money for the express purpose of funding student organizations and then recoups savings on that money for other operations.
It’s not like this is fraudulent behavior. It’s just skeevy.
It’s skeevy because when SGA approves the line items on TUVAC and RecSports’ budget proposals, the senate isn’t intending to make a tacit donation to the university. That’s not what the money is for.
It’s skeevy because the Trinitonian’s ad staff works long hours to generate revenue for the newspaper; we’re on track for our annual goal of selling $70,000 worth of advertisements. Student activity fee money composes only about a third of our annual revenue. Most of the money we use to pay our employees is generated by students.
Our business team carefully manages the budget in order to keep the paper afloat, but the university is holding the savings on that money instead of returning it to our account or to the student activity fee pool. Maybe naked exploitation counts as experiential learning.
The student activity fee is meant to promote campus life. It’s our common contribution to a shared pool of money that each of us can use for our benefit and that of our peers.
That semesterly $150 fee is every student’s contribution to student club events, Student Programming Board concerts, Trinity Diversity Connection panels and more. We task our SGA senators with the responsibility of being stewards of the fund, among other duties. They promote students’ interests, one funding proposal at a time.
Will Trinity University demonstrate responsible stewardship, too?