Trinity’s Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities outlines students’ rights to personal expression, public expression and an uncensored student-edited press. In the part describing public expression, the statement reads, “Students should be free, individually and collectively, to express their views and concerns on issues of institutional policy and on matters of general interest to the student body.”
The statement recognizes the need for a recognized representative organization — in today’s case Student Government Association (SGA). Our SGA’s primary role is to be a distributor of the student activity fee (SAF), the $150 that every student pays each semester at Trinity.
However, while the right to a student government is protected, there is no protection of the money that government allocates on behalf of its constituents. There is no language in the student handbook that addresses the fund’s allocation, the fund’s purpose or that its intended dedication to student engagement and involvement.
So then, is the SAF essentially the university’s money? If you look through the handbook, the answer is yes. Or at least, the answer is “It’s not necessarily the students.’ ”
Surely, administrators would disagree and say that the student activity fee is dedicated to student involvement and engagement, and maybe the university intends never to remove that responsibility from SGA, but nowhere is it in writing.
The university gives SGA the power to allocate this money to university-sponsored organizations, registered student organizations and individual students that request money from the Senate. But that authorization is not explicit.
Students have independence and control over these funds, but only because the university allows it. Is that true independence? At any moment, the administration theoretically has the ability to use the funds collected by the SAF towards any other university expenditure. They say they won’t, but what’s stopping them? Shouldn’t we, through our student government, have definitive control over the $300 per year that we each pay under the guise that it will be put back into student activities?
The student activity fee should be protected as a student’s right, as student representation is. If the university is committed to recognizing a student representative organization and encouraging that that organization facilitates students’ freedom to express their views and concerns, the SAF should be protected.