By Robert Allen
Flashy marketing, great sound bites and glittery campaign taglines is all you’ll find behind the Student Government Association’s (SGA) push to pass its Five Four Six legislation.
The plan is filled with fluff and political pandering backed by few facts, poor planning and reactionary behavior. It’s not a response to actual student demand.
The bill would increase student activity fees for $5 each year for four years to help bring big name artists to campus.
Student activity fees are currently $20 and would increase by 100 percent during four years to $40, following the bill’s passing. In total, the fee increase drains an additional $2,388,100 from students’ pockets, assuming enrollment remains the same and not even factoring in summer classes.
This change, although its percentage rate is increasing more rapidly than I’d like to see, is okay. Because increasing student activities benefits student organizations, student programming, sports clubs and our university’s ability to bring distinguished lectures.
However, the bill also creates a new fund called “Signature Events,” which would receive 10 percent of the activity fee each semester and plans to pull in the big name talent.
This is wasteful spending.
Alone, the “Signature Events” fund would generate at least $620,906 throughout the next four years. That’s more than half a million dollars just to spend on a few one-night events. And for what?
Concerts and retention, a missing link
SGA seems to think this bill will help with retention.
An email by SGA Executive Vice-President, Haley Cobb through a journalism department email thread, captures this sentiment, stating “… retention at MTSU has been down for the last three years” as she tries to promote “… what [SGA is] trying to accomplish” with the bill.
I just don’t see the connection between hosting concerts and the university’s ability to retain students.
In fact, there isn’t one.
According to research conducted by the College Board on Student Retention, proper orientation programs, midterm reporting, effective faculty-to-student interaction and proper advising are most effective at boosting retention.
No mention of concerts here.
But that’s exactly how this bill is being pushed on students.
“How would you like it if Beyoncé performed at MTSU?” asks SGA President, James Lee, encouraging students to pass this legislation.
But we can see right through the hype. We aren’t children who can’t see past flashy prizes — we’re adults who want to see SGA make valuable changes to our university.
You can’t build a sense of community within a university with an expensive, one-and-done events. They don’t help students get plugged in. In fact, they don’t factor into students decision to stay at or come to a school either.
Things like the school’s academic reputation, size, location, costs, major offerings and work prospects after graduation are really on people’s minds, according to a UCLA study “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010.”
Teasing us with artists is not the solution to the retention or “suitcase campus” problem so don’t waste our educational dollars on this gimmicky fix.
Stop the “just five dollars” madness.
Some might say, “It’s only five dollars; you spend that at Zaxby’s,” to advance the campaign.
For starters, it’s not “only five dollars.” It’s five dollars next semester and the semester after that. Then, ten dollars for two semesters. Then $15. Then $20.
But it’s really not about the money at all. It’s what a portion of the money is going toward — concerts that will entertain, not benefit, only a small subset of people no matter which artist they get.
Along the money lines, others argue that the increase in activity fees is long over due. Yeah, the student activity fee has not been raised since 1998, and SGA thinks that because of inflation they are entitled to increase the fee.
But this is poor planning on SGA’s behalf, not a justification for the increase.
SGA knew last year the fee hadn’t been increased to account for inflation, just as they knew the 14 years before that. So to go back and retroactively increase the fees all at once doesn’t seem fair to current students.
If they had been increasing the fee with inflation every year, then we wouldn’t even be having this debate.
More funds would already be given to student activity fees, and SGA wouldn’t be taking a shot in the dark with the “Signature Events” fund to boost student involvement.
Poor planning all around
We, as students, have to take a stand against this ill-conceived bill. SGA didn’t do enough research before they put this plan together.
We know it hasn’t been well thought through because Lee has said in his pitch, “When we have enough to fund someone, then we will use the money.”
Note the use of the vague words “someone” and “when.” We don’t know who or, even, when we will host an artist from the newly created fund. Also, hosting Beyoncé costs more than the entire program would raise throughout four years. SGA’s leaders are obviously making empty promises they can’t even fulfill.
I would expect more from a plan that generates more than two million dollars during four years.
You can tell SGA members are passionate about helping the university do better across the board. But passion isn’t enough.
If passion was all it took, more than 80 percent of businesses wouldn’t fail and there would be no starving artists.
Just like SGA wants more and demands excellence from the student body, we should want and demand the best from them. Until this bill is better researched, we cannot pass it.
SGA has made the assumption that the student body wants more concerts. But have they actually polled the students to see if this what we really want? I don’t think so.
They’re using the “if you build it, they will come” mentality without really ever testing student demand.
It’s a mistake that could cost hundreds of thousands of our hard earned money.
Creating this fund is absolutely the wrong choice. We need to see hard evidence that this is the best choice before passing this legislation. We, as students, deserve more.
Say no… for now
Vote “no” for this bill and send it back to SGA. They can work on it, research it more and refine it to make it a truly beneficial plan for all students.
SGA is headed in the right direction by wanting to increase student involvement. However, this plan is flawed. Concerts are not the solution. They’re a waste of student funds.
Don’t let clever marketing, catch phrases and lofty promises distract from the true issues at hand.
We’ve seen these tricks before and, this time, we won’t fall for it.
This bill will be put to a referendum during voting from April 14 to 17.
Remember, you must take a stand and vote “no” for this bill. SGA only needs a majority of the votes cast to be in favor of the bill to pass it. They do not need a majority vote from the student population.
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