An Undergraduate Council committee endorsed changing the optional $35 termbill fee to a mandatory $100 fee yesterday, provided that the student body approves the increase in an eventual referendum vote.
The measure, proposed by the council’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) at its meeting last night, will be voted on by the entire council this Sunday.
This change would constitute only the third increase in the termbill fee since its inception in 1981. In 1988 it increased from $10 to $25 and then grew to its current level in 2001.
A measure to increase the termbill fee from $25 to $50 in fall of 1999 narrowly failed after it was put to a student referendum.
The council’s budget, which typically hovers around $230,000, is supported by a $35 termbill fee that 92 percent of students elect to pay, according to Russell M. Anello ’04, a co-sponsor of the resolution.
Should the new fee be approved, the council’s budget would triple, rising to nearly $700,000.
The resolution was recommended to the full council by a vote of 9 to 3, although it is likely to encounter more significant opposition now that it has left committee.
Proponents of the bill argued that the increased fee would allow the council to fund groups more generously.
“Currently we’re able to fund student groups at 33 percent,” said Anello. “With the increase we would be able to meet nearly 100 percent of requests.”
The increased funding would also allow for campus-wide events such as dances and concerts to occur more regularly, according to SAC Chair Matthew J. Glazer ’06.
“It’s going to be a great thing for social life,” Glazer said. “We’ll be able to reach a lot more students on campus.”
Compared to other colleges, Harvard’s Undergraduate Council fee falls well below the norm. Stanford University, Northeastern University and Boston College all have fees near the $100 mark, while Boston University and Dartmouth College have fees of $414 and $540, respectively, according to council data.
The decision to bring the proposal to a vote of the entire student body passed under an amendment sponsored by Jason L. Lurie ’05.
Lurie said that a referendum vote will ensure that students are behind the bill, and should it pass—as he believes it will—give more legitimacy to the actions of the council.
“We don’t want the Faculty to second-guess us,” said Lurie. “This is a way to demonstrate the trust and faith that the student body has in the council.”
Should the council as a whole approve the resolution, it would then go to a referendum before being sent on to the Committee on College Life, a student-Faculty committee that also includes top College administrators. Finally, the Faculty Council and then the Faculty as a whole must approve or reject the change.
Lurie said that while he does support the plan to raise the termbill fee, he was concerned that an increase in funding could actually decrease the fiscal accountability of the council’s Campus Life Committee (CLC), which is responsible for planning many of the council’s campus-wide events.
“If there’s no limit on the amount of money that CLC events can lose, there will be no incentive to run cost-neutral events or to justify money-losing events as having a large impact for their cost,” Lurie wrote in an e-mail.
Council member Joshua A. Barro ’05 called the bill “ridiculous”—a sentiment he said he believes will be shared by most students.
“The UC doesn’t need to triple its budget to serve students well,” he said.
“In fact, I can’t imagine how we would reasonably spend so much money. I expect that students will soundly reject the proposed increase, because they will recognize what it is—a huge and unnecessary tax hike.”
—Staff writer Jeffrey C. Aguero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.