The California Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 960, a bill aimed at giving California State University (CSU) students a chance at increased involvement when it comes to self-imposed fees, on April 11. The bill still awaits the State Senate approval.
The bill ensures that student fees are not unfairly implemented by CSU administration without a re-vote of the entire student body, stated the press release from Senator Michael J. Rubio (D- Shafter), who introduced the bill.
“SB 960 will set into law important protections for CSU students that prevent campus presidents from raiding the student fee accounts that the college students voted to impose on themselves and that they are paying with their own hard earned money,” Rubio said in the press release.
The bill would also address the problem of CSU administration changing the designation of student fees without student body consent.
“College students are already having a difficult time making ends meet to pay for rising tuition and living costs,” Rubio said in the press release. “Clearly, if students vote a student fee into existence, they should always be part of determining how those funds are used.”
University officials opposed changes to the system of shared governance within CSU in the bill.
“Within the higher education system as a whole, the CSU is very unique,” said Erik Fallis, media relations specialist for CSU. “Our student governments are all independent nonprofits who control their own budget by electing students directly.”
These nonprofits manage budgets in the best interest of the students.
“Within this structure, there are a lot of opportunities for students to direct their own affairs and be heavily involved in the management of the university,” Fallis said.
The point of contact for this shared governance is the associated students and their leadership. At the systemwide level, the point of contact is the California State Student Association (CCSA).
Under current policy, if CSU were to consider a fee increase, but was somehow hindered from holding a full election, they would have the option of alternative consultation.
Alternative consultation involves a discussion with a campus fee advisory committee or other student association.
The new policy would take away the option of alternative consultation, as even if a campus committee were consulted, a full student body election would still be required.
“You’re no longer empowering the student leadership that’s already been elected to work out the consultation process,” Fallis said. “It’s beneficial to have strong student leadership.”
Senate Bill 960 also lengthens the process of fee implementation.
“This could be detrimental in urgent cases, such as fees aimed at student medical services, advising programs and athletic programs, as well as building structures and providing transportation systems,” Fallis said.
Most of the time, however, Fallis states that alternative consultation has been used to discuss relatively minor changes.
“A full election costs a lot of money, and involves a great deal of time,” Fallis said. “We could be going through all this time and effort for a relatively small change. When large fee increases are in question, a general election is almost always used anyway.”
Though the bill addresses issues related to shared governance, the CSSA neither supports nor opposes SB 960 and has instead decided to watch the bill.
“When we watch it usually means we feel we don’t have enough information for us to oppose or support the bill,” CCSA Executive Director, Miles Nevin said. “We want to see how it plays out in the legislature. There might be some amendments to it.”
Nevin expressed that when it comes to addressing fee policies, the first step for CSU students should be to directly address the chancellor.
“Our students recognize that on fee policy, they have ongoing access to the chancellor,” Nevin said. “If we felt there was an issue at the statewide level we should address it with the chancellor’s office first.”
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