Student fee has same price tag, different benefits

Robert Fisher, SGA President, Chattanooga, Tenn. — Scrappy emails from Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communications, started early this year asking students to “opt in” to the student activity fee, which provides money to aid programing for the Campus Activities Board and other organizations on campus.
Last semester the Tennessee General Assembly almost passed two bills that would have drastically changed the way student organizations operated on our campus. One would have prohibited speakers on our campus—even invited speakers—and the other would have allocated student organization funding based on the number of members in an organization.
After much debate and push back from SGA leaders across the state, the General Assembly dropped these bills but only after they passed a follow-up resolution. The resolution mandates that each campus in the University of Tennessee System create an “opt-in measure” for a small, yet critical portion of the student programming and services fee (SPSF).
So what does this change actually mean, and why is this small portion so important to us?
This piece of the SPSF is so critical because it is the portion of our student fees that supports student programming by student organizations. Yes, it is the portion of our student fees that allows the Campus Activities Board to put on Casino Night, large concerts, ticket give-a-ways, and much more. The Student Programming Allocation Committee (SPAC), comprised of both students and staff, allocates funding reserved for student programs by student organizations. The committee receives written proposals and allocates funding based on the merit of the proposals. This process is great because it allows any registered student organization to access funding from the SPAC. The SGA treasurer serves as co-chair, so there is a student leading the committee as well.
How do you opt-in? And how much does opting-in cost you?
You will have to indicate through MyMocsNet that you want to opt-in when you sign-in to your account. Let us be clear about this: if you do not opt-in, you do not save any money. Whether you opt-in or not, the amount of SPSF you pay will be the exact same price. I could rephrase that to say: whether you choose to have access to student programs or not, you will be paying the exact same amount of money. And what’s worse, if too few students opt-in, the entire student body will see a decrease in the number of programs organized by the student organizations that many of us know and love.
Why you have to opt-in:
When this new change happens—sometime over the next week or so—you will have to indicate that you want this specific portion of your student activity fee to support student programs by student organizations. If not, the SPAC will have limited resources to fund student groups, and worse, you will not have access to hundreds of programs offered on campus this year.
There will likely be some sort of MocsCard authorization when you attend programs—something similar to attending and athletic event—and if you do not opt-in, you will not get to participate. Again, choosing not to opt-in will not save you any money, but it will keep from you enjoying some of the best programs UTC has to offer—those organized by your peers. Most importantly, you will forgo the lasting bonds and friendships you inevitably develop at student programs as well.
So this is SGA’s call to you: please opt in. You do not want to miss out on the amazing programs put on by student organizations every semester. Opt-in when time comes, and get ready for programs like laser tag parties, movie nights, open mic nights, lectures, concerts, and so much more.

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