By John Custodio
On February 4, the SUNY Oswego Student Association announced the date for the presidential and vice-presidential elections, as well as the biannual referendum on student activity fees.
Students can vote for the next president and vice president of the SUNY Oswego Student Association on March 10-11, alongside a referendum to decide whether the $120 student activity fee will remain mandatory or become voluntary.
From July 1 to March 5, 2020, the Student Union raised $1,332,489 through student activity fees, and an additional $32,000 from revenue from Oswegonian, WNYO, and WTOP, and Student Concerts Association Programming Board (SAPB) and Student Association Volunteer Ambulance Corporation (SAVAC) fundraising events totaling $1,364,489. The student association spent $1,364,264.80, profiting $224.20. Significant expenditures for the Student Union include the Centro bus contract agreement totaling $95,000 and ALANA programming totaling $25,000. The rest of the funds are split between student clubs ranging from the Black Student Union to the Chess Club, and club sports such as men’s soccer and women’s softball.
According to current student union vice president Alanna Hill, referendum voting takes place every two years, but the last referendum in 2019 was a very close vote, with fees becoming almost voluntary.
“If these fees were no longer mandatory and were voluntary, the likely result would be that many students would not pay them,” Hill said. “For example, if the fee is voluntary, you’re not going to choose to pay it.”
Hill said if student activity fees become voluntary, the budget would come almost entirely from profits from media organizations, fundraisers, and SAPB and SAVAC events. Hill said students would be able to pay the fees voluntarily, but doubted many would voluntarily pay an extra $120 per semester on top of other fees and tuition.
“Everyone’s budget, from the sports club to the [the media organizations] to special interest clubs, to college clubs, to services, to adults who work on our payrolls and get paid year-round, that money comes from there as well,” Hill said. “If we lost all this money, we would also lose all these services and benefits.”
Hill said many of the services students use daily, such as the Centro bus contract and the office of sustainability’s bike-sharing, might not work or the student body would have to find funds from other sources. The student union is urging students to vote to keep activity fees mandatory so clubs can get more funding.
“Last year it was a very close vote and I think the only thing that made us keep it mandatory was all the clubs saying to their members ‘go save our money’,” said Hill. “But it was a close vote, which is scary because if we lose money, we lose all of these things.”
The student body has emergency reserve funds from the club, currently totaling about $1.3 million, but Hill said that’s enough for one year of current funding. Hill said if fees became voluntary, clubs and organizations would be fine for funding for one year, but the following year would have next to nothing with current budgets.
WNYO Alternate Director Ash Perretta favors retaining student activity fees, citing the costs of repairing and replacing radio station equipment.
“If we can’t fix things, then we don’t have a station,” Perretta said. “I feel like student activities are an essential part of the college experience, so by cutting that budget or making it voluntary, you’re losing a lot of experience opportunities.”
Men’s Baseball Club member John Rath knows what it’s like for his club to have no budget after the club’s baseball team didn’t get funding for 2021-22 because the president didn’t did not submit a budget. Rath said he favors keeping activity fees mandatory.
“Without this money, we couldn’t do anything,” Roth said.
The student union budget is a public record, with the full breakdown of funds available on the student union records page at lakerlife.oswego.edu.
Brandon Ladd | The Oswegonian